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A multi-channel approach for customer communications and profiles

A friend and colleague Jim Marous shared an article from American Banker on Googe+ entitled Banks Underuse Mobile for Communication. The article discusses challenges that financial institutions have with communicating with their customers through mobile devices. While mobile device applications and mobile optimized sites are becoming more common, and expected by account holders, financial institutions are not using the mobile channel for proactive communication. Kael Kelly, senior director at Varolii is quoted in the article “Banks don’t have the data that they need. A lot of the phone number data doesn’t easily distinguish between a mobile number and a land-line.”

So the idea that banks don’t know what data they have made me think about some other data that Jim Marous shared about financial institutions and customer data. Like this tweet about banks not having email addresses for their account holders.

The pattern I see is missing or unintelligible customer profile data. That problem expands beyond the boundary of the financial services industry. It’s really a common need for any type of business. There’s no doubt that many organizations have good process to manage customer profile data and communication.  But for those that don’t, I believe there is a fairly simple solution.

A simple multi-solution for collecting profile data.
The first step is to collect accurate information at the time of new account opening. That seems obvious, but for many businesses this may require updating the customer/client profile record to support addresses for current communication mediums. That means distinguishing between phone number types such as home, mobile, work etc. It means a place for an email address as well.   Depending on the business, you may also want to include a variable field for social media type contact information. At a minimum require one phone number and one email address.  If the customer insists they do not have an email address then fill the field with an agreed upon standard such as (noemail@yourbusinessdomain.com)

I understand there are regulations governing anti-spam communications via email and SMS text. But I don’t think banks or other businesses need to over think/engineer a basic solution to keep accurate profile data.  The email and phone number should be required and make sure the customer knows when they establish the account that you may use this information to contact them with important notices about their account. You can optionally create a permission indicator (opt-in) that is designated for future marketing.

A simple multi-channel solution for communicating with customers to keep their profile data active.
I suggest sending notifications through multiple channels annually for customers to check and update their profile contact information.  Here are some possible touch points:

1. Pop up in the online account area after login.  Remember, customers are in your system by their own choice.  So this is a fair message to display to them. This is also an area where the customer can self-serve any updates they need to make.

2. Email reminder. Don’t ask the customer to login from the email message or reply to it. That’s a technique used by phishing attacks and creates mistrust. Rather, use the email to notify and request the customer update their profile information the next time they login to their online account or the next time they visit a branch/store location.

3. Post the reminder message on Facebook/Google+/Twitter and other social sites where customers may follow your brand for the purpose of receiving communication. These social medium platforms are broadcast platforms. You don’t need permission to place messages there and customers that see a message from your account page are there by their own choice.

4. Put the reminder message in a recording for customers holding for live assistance. It’s a simple reminder that they should keep their profile information up-to-date to help with important account notifications.

5. Have any branch/store employees verify with customers on the designated day (annually) that their information is up-to-date information. This only covers the customers that are serviced in-person for that day, but it’s a great touch point for interaction and shows that your brand is proactive to keep good records.

Since some customers may have fees associated with SMS texting, it’s not advisable to use that channel unless you have established that as part of their profile setup.

The email channel is different in this multi-channel approach because it is a message to an individual area. In fact, email addresses that are not accurate may return as undeliverable. Consider monitoring undeliverable emails and putting these customers on a list for follow-up through other means such as phone or postal mail.  Alternatively, remove email addresses from the profile record if they are not deliverable after three attempts.

What do you think? Should it be difficult to keep accurate profile data and request the customer update/verify it with recurring frequency?

  • Brad Banyas

    Bob,
    All points to profile updates and best practices are right on track. What we find the main issue is no central profile management repository. Many Banks and Credit Unions have information in the Core concerning customer profile, then Online Banking profile and mobile banking profile. The issue stems from disparate systems when core software and online banking software are not integrated or are from different vendors, which is common. Our approach has been to automate as much as possible through output in daily, weekly, monthly communications like statements, notices ect to match profile data from files , also when users login to view communications automatically update emails from online banking profile. When emails do bounce system can kick of letter, postcard or text message to advise of bad email. Though not perfect it someone makes the process of updating profiles less of a burden. We offer a distribution profile preference setting to end customers where they can define primary emails, cell, recently added is twitter profile and Facebook to assist in updating profiles. 

  • Thanks for the comment Brad. I can see how disparate systems would make this a challenge. So you would definitely need an automated synchronization plan.

    The other half of the problem is keeping the actual data up-to-date. For this I like some of the ideas to nudge or prompt the customer to review their profile data at some set interval.

    -Bob