Relevance from the Outside-In

by Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional


Jeff Rendel

One of the more valuable questions for executives and directors to ask as your bank continues along its path of strategic thinking and planning is, “What’s my/our vision for our bank’s customers?” Of the numerous answers that have come across this desk, few have focused on a measure, such as reaching a certain asset size to provide more services. Most replies involve continued relevance in customers’ lives. After all, if relevance is absent, it’s challenging to grow to that certain asset size to provide more services.

Developing this kind of far-sighted view is a dependable and useful display of leadership for your customers. It seldom involves a middle-of-the-night “a-ha” moment; most often, it’s built from daily insights you can use to generate and reinforce strategies that uphold your vision. Below are five “outside-in” ways that five bank leaders utilize to practically recognize and discover how their banks might adjust to remain relevant for customers.

  1. Learn and increase your PFI status. Understanding where your customers keep most of their business is important, given the full range of existing providers (some are not even depository institutions). Published in 2015, The Wallet Allocation Rule, discusses how wallet share is a primary driver of satisfaction and loyalty (the authors show it even more effective than the Net Promoter Score). We also learn that customers who don’t indicate your bank as their PFI offer valuable insights as to why they bank elsewhere (spoiler alert: technology, ATMs, and branches). Who are your PFI customers? Why do they remain loyal? What customers don’t consider your bank their PFI? Why are they so loyal to another institution?
  2. Make everything easy. Several years ago, the Harvard Business Review ran an article discussing the “Customer Effort Score.” In short, it described that the easier a business is to transact with, the more likely consumers will buy again. Look over every process and touch point at your bank. Where could you make it easier for your customers? What steps could be shortened or eliminated? How might you simplify and streamline customer access? Where could your customers experience frustration and discontinue a process? Making customer interactions easier and more user-friendly could be a driver of increased PFI status.
  3. Hold focus groups. Your formats may vary – a cross-section of all customers, a target demographic, an ongoing group, and more. What’s important is to hear their thoughts on products, services, and experiences – now, and for the future. Even more important is to listen and act where themes reveal areas for improvement, innovation, and beneficial solutions. Chances are your focus group customers will describe positive experiences and new levels of expectations that they receive outside of your bank, even outside of financial services. Are there consumer experiences they appreciate elsewhere that may have a unique application at your bank?
  4. Look outside of financial services. When you’ve finished this article and issue, get outside of your bank and learn how other retail-focused businesses are serving and selling to consumers. Your customers’ expectations don’t change when they leave one retail store and enter your bank; the expectations are just as high. What are your customers experiencing in their other consumer lives (design, marketing, service, technology, etc.)? How can your bank remain relevant to their experiences and expectations in the general marketplace?
  5. Network outside of banks. It’s easy to pick up the phone and call a bank friend to bounce an idea around. You should do this regularly; it’s valuable and a casual way to refine your strategies. However, perspectives from other executives can give you new insights into successful marketing, operations, sales, and more. Your friends from the Chamber of Commerce, CEO groups like Vistage, and local business leader luncheons can provide valuable principles learned from their successes and allow you to find applications for your bank. You could even ask their outside perspective on financial services as it relates to their worldview on sales, service, and experience. Unbiased viewpoints can be very valuable.

When your customers win, your bank wins. The more you know about the next level of success for your customers, the more relevant your bank will be in their lives. Consider these practical ways from your peers to better understand changing dynamics that affect how your customers go about their financial services matters.

© 2015 by Jeff Rendel. All rights reserved.

Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional, and President of Rising Above Enterprises works with banks that want entrepreneurial results in leadership, sales, and strategy.  Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 banks and their business partners.





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