Welcome to the Party! How to Create Customer Growth through Successful Onboarding

July 11, 2018 Lane Yard

I’m sitting at this dinner party and start thinking about the customer onboarding process for a bank.

“Really, Lane? Are you that absorbed in your work?” you might ask.

Okay, maybe that was a stretch. I was actually thinking about it at lunch the other day. But, there are similarities between a guest’s experience at a party and a new customer’s relationship with a bank. Humor me while I draw them for you.

When you host a party, what’s your number one objective? It’s probably to make sure your guests enjoy themselves and have a memorable time. To do that, you need to make the event work for everyone, even if their interests and tastes vary widely. You offer a variety of food and drinks and include amenities that make guests comfortable. You also pay attention to their preferences so that the next time they visit, their experience will be even better.

But, let’s say it’s the first time you’ve invited a particular guest over (kind of like a new customer to a bank). How do you know what she likes to eat or drink or what kind of music gets her on the dance floor? You may have to make some educated guesses or offer food and music that appeals to a broad variety of tastes to start (tacos, anyone?). Once you get to know your new guest better, you can tailor the options at your next gettogether.

The same is true of banks. To build long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationships (and ultimately grow assets under management), banks must pay attention to signals early in the process about customer needs and preferences. As the relationship grows, they should tailor their communication approach accordingly. Banks must view customer onboarding as an important and evolutionary process, mapping out well-planned touchpoints that consider the individual customer’s persona and the steps he/she is taking along the buyer’s journey.

Take their Coats: Greet Your Customers and Make them Feel Welcome

You’re the host of a party, standing at the door. What’s normal is to greet guests as they arrive and offer to take their coats. You might compliment some of them on their outfits. It’s logical and important to make them feel welcome and comfortable immediately.

However, you wouldn’t immediately tell them what’s for dinner, where to sit, what entertainment you have planned and introduce them to other guests. You’d likely give them time to settle in.

If you’re a bank, the typical first step of onboarding is to send a welcome email (or direct mail piece) to new customers. Thank them for choosing your company. Tell them they’ve made a smart choice. Let them know you’re here to help. It’s not the time to offer a slew of other products and services that you don’t even know they need.

If you’re not careful, you might find yourself offering to take the coat of someone who isn’t even wearing one (the equivalent of offering a HELOC to an apartment dweller). This is a clear signal to your customers that you’re responding on autopilot and really don’t know them. Unfortunately, without a well-planned onboarding communications plan, that’s just what can happen.

Offer a Beverage: Suggest Something Relevant

There are some sequential offerings you can make to a new customer based on typical behavior. At a party, the next logical step is to offer guests a drink. Knowing what kind of drink to offer is key. If you have a guest who is pregnant or doesn’t drink alcohol, be sure to offer her a sparkling water or soda instead of a craft beer.

There are plenty of insights in your customer profile data (to help you offer the right kind of drink). Use these insights, along with cues your customer may have given as to what product or service to offer next. Consider things like:

  • What’s the reason for opening the account and why now?
  • What type of account did they open, and what conveniences are they likely to want next?
  • Was this customer the sole decision maker in opening the account, or were there influencers in the process?

With each individual interaction or purchase decision, a customer’s persona and position in the buyer’s journey is critical to understanding how and if they want to grow the relationship—and at what pace. Use what you know about them to make relevant offers.

Where's the Bathroom? Remind Customers of Conveniences and Other Key Offerings

At some point—as host and banker—you must keep the party moving along. If you don’t take some lead, guests (and customers) may wander around looking for things that you could easily guide them to. Point out the restroom. They may not need it now, but at some point, they’ll appreciate it. Show them where they’ll sit for dinner and perhaps introduce them to the guests who will sit on either side. They might choose to immediately engage or save the knowledge to start a dinner conversation when the time comes.

For banks, proper onboarding means introducing your customers to the conveniences that will have the most immediate impact—and that they are likely to adopt based on their needs.

  • Where is the closest branch to your home or office?
  • Let them know your bank offers 24/7 support via phone or chat.
  • If you have the mobile app, make sure customer knows how to use it.

Banks can engage new customers through a variety of channels (that the customer chooses, by the way) to show them around and get them started. One guest at a party might be fine if you say, “The restroom is down the hall, second door on the left.” Another might appreciate you walking them to it. Similarly, some customers will learn better about mobile banking through an interactive training video, while others may need no hand-holding at all.

You constantly collect data on customers based upon things like website activity (how long they spend on particular sections and the order in which they navigate) as well as open, click and forward rates of onboarding emails. Use this data to determine how and when to present initial convenience tools.

Tailor the Menu: Use What You Know to Connect More Deeply 

Everyone is comfortable and having a nice time. But, their appetites may be growing. A good host has timed dinner for the ideal moment. It’s the menu that can get a bit tricky. While you probably can’t afford the time or budget to create a customized meal for every guest, you may consider offering options most people like, as well as a few sides to accommodate guests who are vegetarians, have food allergies or are simply a little picky.

Your own customer data tells you a lot about what to offer next. If a customer opens a checking account, it’s highly probable they will open a savings account. Once both are in place, a debit card and overdraft protection make sense. But, what if your customer signed up for all four from the start?

Sending onboarding messages encouraging customers to adopt products they already have is like offering mashed potatoes to a guest who already has a plate full of them. Even worse, offering chicken satay to a guest with a peanut allergy is like offering a 529 plan to someone with no children. You know it’s something that’s simply not applicable.

Some guests (and customers) may not realize what they like until they’ve tried it. Offer them a side dish (or additional service) based on what you know about them.

“Kendra, I made this new tiger roll and would love your opinion since you just got back from Japan.”

This approach shows customers you know them as individuals and that you truly want to engage in a relationship.

Keep the Party Going: Watch Data Signals and Think Long-Term

Just because the party eventually comes to an end doesn’t mean your relationships with guests has to. Guests often talk with each other or share photos on social media afterwards. Pay attention to what they’re saying and plan a follow-up party. And don’t forget to invite those who couldn’t make it the first time. Maybe the timing just wasn’t right.

Compare this to the first 60 to 90 days of a new customer relationship. Just because a customer didn’t adopt all your products and services immediately doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. Continue reaching out at logical, data-informed steps in their journey.

Monitor credit card activity. If you see regular payments to a vendor, perhaps the time is right to remind them of autopay or online bill pay options. If they’ve suddenly increased purchases at a home improvement store, perhaps they’re considering selling their home. Use it as an opportunity to promote mortgage, refinancing and other lending services.

Historically, content or onboarding material drives toward what you, the bank, should do next and lacks thought behind what makes sense for the customer. The next best product only makes sense when it addresses what customers need, when they need it.

When it comes to welcoming new customers, remember that they just walked in the door—don’t overdo it. Take time to get to know them, and grow the relationship based on their cues.  

About the Author

Lane Yard

As Director Business Development, Lane works with clients in financial services and insurance markets to understand and meet their marketing needs. Lane brings value to the table by asking the right questions of—and listening to—his clients, empowering them to interact contextually with their own customers, through direct and digital channels.

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