Out of the Inbox: U.S. Bank Pushes E-statements with "Go Green with Online Statements"

imageOn Friday, I received a marketing message from U.S. Bank attempting to convince me to turn off my paper statements and adopt online statements. In 2007 (here), I wrote about its similar effort at login. 

The graphic design and layout are wonderful with splashes of green throughout and a peaceful, sunny forest scene. It’s a nice bit of branding for the bank. So far, so good.

However, in terms of direct-marketing effectiveness, where the goal is to get the reader to take action, the message leaves a lot to be desired.

Turning off your paper statement is a relatively major change in behavior (previous post), so readers need clear information and/or incentives to move to less-costly paperless delivery. This message is lacking in both.

Benefit statements
Here are the supposed user benefits touted in the email:

Online statements help you:

– Deter fraud
– Reduce clutter
– Manage accounts
– Get real-time updates

Let’s look at the benefits from the standpoint of the end-user:

  • Deter fraud: Can the average reader make the leap to how online statements will cut down on fraud? I doubt it. This bullet point needs more detail.
  • Reduce clutter: This is pretty self explanatory. But do people really think of their monthly bank statement as “clutter.” Some do, but it’s not a particularly compelling argument.
  • Manage accounts: This wording leaves a lot to be desired. How does turning off your paper statements help you manage your accounts better? Presumably, those who sign up for online statements have more info available online. If that’s the case, the bank needs to say so.
  • Get real-time updates: What do online statements have to do with real-time updates?  This is probably meant as a generic benefit for banking online, but it’s out of place here.

On the other hand the environmental benefits are much more tangible. However, for the cynical reader (and there are a LOT of cynical bank customers these days), there should be footnotes explaining the derivation or source of the green benefits. For example, at the bottom of the message there’s prominent claim:

Save nearly 7 pounds of paper yearly by Going Green.

That sounds impressive, but if you think about, it doesn’t jive with experience. Unless you get your checks back, most statements come in at under an ounce. And that includes a significant amount of bank advertising flyers. So how do we get from 12 ounces saved annually to the 7 lbs cited in the email? Readers will never know because there is no additional info available to substantiate the claim. You would think the bank would explain the claims on the landing page, but it has even less info (see below).

Call to action/incentives
The message includes tangible, albeit unsubstantiated, environmental benefits which are compelling. However, customers know that all these benefits spell significant cost savings for the financial institution. For some customers, especially of  member-owned credit unions, that may be enough to get them to take action.

However, many customers are going to feel this is a pretty one-sided deal. If they are going to give up the comfort of their paper statements, there should be something in it for them.

That’s why we recommend an incentive of some sort. It could be a periodic giveaway, a one-time thank-you gift ($5 at Amazon), or an extra online benefit they wouldn’t otherwise get, such as long-term archives, premium customer service or a free-overdraft card. For example, Key Bank offered a low-cost and effective incentive in the fall (post here). Chase had an even better promotion in 2007 (post here).

Landing page
Granted, there isn’t much room in a one-page HTML message. So it’s understandable that the benefits are abbreviated. Usually, a marketer will use the landing page to expand on the key features and benefits. However, U.S. Bank’s landing page offers little additional help (see screenshot below).

The page doesn’t connect back to the email in any meaningful way. Benefits are neither reiterated, nor explained. Within the page, a brief explanation tells how to enroll, but surprisingly the Enroll Today link on the right has nothing to do with estatements and leads to a page explaining online access options.

Grades

  • Design: A
  • Copywriting: B+
  • Content: C+ (could be A- if benefits were explained on the landing page or FAQ)
  • Landing page: D
  • Overall effectiveness: A- for brand building; C- for driving estatement enrollment

U.S. Bank email marketing message, “Go Green with Online Statements” (23 Jan. 2009)

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U.S. Bank landing page for online statements (link, 27 Jan. 2009)

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Note: See our Online Banking Report on Email Marketing and Online Banking Report on Emessaging & Statements for more information.

Visa Announces Android and P2P Mobile Initiatives

image Visa today put a stake in the ground to be viewed as the innovation leader, a position that American Express has claimed for some time with its chip cards, social media efforts, and even an online lab site. At today’s “innovation briefing” in NYC, Visa announced several pilots and upcoming initiatives.

Mobile person-to-person transfers
The most far-reaching announcement was the ability for Visa cardholders to transfer funds from one card to another via mobile device. So far, just one bank is participating in the pilot. US Bank says it will make the service available to a few thousand cardholders as a test later this year. PaymentsNews has more details here.

It sounds good, but as always the devil is in the details. For instance:

  • Through what hoops will cardholders have to jump to enable their card and phone for the service?
  • Will the transfers be treated as cash advances triggering fees and finance charges?
  • Will it be available to all cardholders using any mobile phones? 

Visa jumps on the android bandwagon
A more immediate innovation is a location-and-alert-based service built for Google’s android platform, a new mobile system launching in late October. Visa’s new service, to be rolled out initially by Chase Bank (no time frame given), promises some important new developments:

  • “Near real-time” purchase alerts (see note 1) so you can see immediately whether your server added an extra digit in front of your tip on that bar tab. The real-time alert pilot was announced a month ago (here) involving several thousand accounts at PNC Bank, SunTrust Bank, US Bank, Wachovia, Wells Fargo, Royal Bank of Canada, TD Bank, and Vancity.
  • Visa merchant finder based on your location-based/GPS technology  (nice!) with targeted marketing offers (hmmm??). The merchant locations will be integrated with Google Maps.

Again, PaymentsNews has the entire press release here.

Notes:
1. Visa says that the alerts will arrive “typically before (the consumer) leaves the store.”

2. For more information, see our Online Banking Report on Mobile Money & Payments.

Login, Logoff Marketing Messages from Bank of America, PayPal, US Bank, WaMu and Wells Fargo

image After returning from some R&R in Iowa and Kansas, I logged into my banking and credit card accounts to see what I'd forgotten to attend to before leaving town. Luckily, everything seemed in order this time.

Always on the lookout for online marketing examples, I thought it would be  interesting to compare and contrast the marketing messages presented to users as they logged in and logged out of five major banking sites. 

  • Bank of America (business and personal credit cards): BofA typically has a marketing message at login and logoff.
    Login  The bank's brokerage division is pitching free Morningstar mutual fund research. I haven't seen this one before, and it seems a bit wordy, so it may be the first time for this offer (see screenshot #1 below)
    Logout  A pitch for a cash-back business credit card. It's a good offer, but perplexing, given that I already have a business and personal card with BofA. Not sure why they want me to have three (screenshot #2).
  • PayPal (verified account): PayPal has used log-in splash-screens almost since it began in 1999 with a mix of marketing and service messages. But they don't overuse the technique, so it's noticeable when they have a new splash-screen running.
    Login  No marketing, just direct entry to main screen
    Logout  No marketing, just a landing at the usual PayPal merchant emporium (screenshot #3)
  • US Bank (multiple accounts): I don't think I've ever seen a marketing message from US Bank at login or logoff. I believe I've seen a service message at login a few times over the years, but it's extremely rare.
    Login  No marketing, just dropped on main account page as usual
    Logout  No marketing, just a brief "you've been logged out" message
  • WaMu (business checking): I've had the account only a few months, but WaMu has frequently posted marketing messages at login, and they've been relatively creative, as you'd expect.
    Login  Pitching its WaMu Live concert promotion which provides exclusive access to summer events to WaMu credit and debit card holders (screenshot #4). 
    Logout  No marketing, just a solid recap of security precautions, a good message to leave with online banking users (screenshot #5).
  • Wells Fargo (credit card): Wells uses marketing messages frequently at both login and logout.
    Login  Electronic statement (paper turnoff), something I've not done yet (screenshot #6).
    Logoff  Home equity loans (screenshot #7)

What's Innovative?
There wasn't anything particularly enlightening in these examples. The WaMu Live pitch was the only truly unique message. For the most part, they were typical, well-crafted marketing messages you'd expect from these major players. That's fine now, since most customers don't yet have "banner fatigue" at their online banking site. But going forward, the messages will need to be more targeted and more interesting to get attention and action from jaded online users.

The other issue is frequency. You'll figure this out through testing, but there's a line you don't want to cross where a splash-screen message presented at every login ceases to be effective and is just plain annoying.

Finally, for financial institutions, such as US Bank, still not using this login real estate for sales messages, your customers thank you; however, quick-loading, targeted messaging, used with discretion, should benefit your bottom line.   

1. Bank of America login screen for business-credit-card only account (1 Aug 2008)image

2. Bank of America logoff screen (1 Aug 2008)

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3. PayPal logout (1 Aug 2008)

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4. WaMu login screen (31 July 2008)image 

5. WaMu logout screen (1 August 2008)image

6. Wells Fargo login splash screen (1 Aug 2008)

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7. Wells Fargo logoff screen (1 Aug 2008)

image

50 Banks and Credit Unions Have Facebook Pages

imageFour months ago (here) I wrote about how easy it was to set up a company page in Facebook. Even a total novice like myself could create one in a few minutes.

There hasn't exactly been a rush to do it, but approximately 50 financial institutions have posted a free company page on Facebook (see note 1). Although, most are simple "white page" listings with no more than logo, address, phone number and URL, it's still better than nothing.
(Update Mar 7: Please note, I am talking only about Facebook "pages" here. There are several banking "groups," notably Chase +1 with nearly 50,000 members, that are far more active. Also, some FI pages , such as TD Money Lounge and RBC Bankbook, do not show up in my search using "bank" and "credit union." Consider these counts approximations. )

Credit unions have three times as many as banks. Credit union's can often move faster because of their size and culture. Here's the count by financial institution type:

  • 10 North American banks
  • 32 North American credit unions
  • 8 banks outside North America

The only banks with more than a handful of fans are Jordan's Arab Bank with 145 and HSBC Bank Egypt with 89. Silicon Valley's Valley Credit Union (screenshot below) leads in the U.S. with 45 fans.

Valley Credit Union Facebook page

There's also one bank branch that's taken the initiative to post a Facebook page. U.S. Bank's Beaver Valley, Ohio branch (here) is one of the few to have posted something interesting, a $100 Super Bowl contest. They've also posted their branch hours (see screenshot below). 

US Bank's Beaver Valley branch Facebook page

Note:

1. I counted financial institution pages by using Facebook's site search for "bank" and then for "credit union." To qualify the FI had to at least post the bank's logo and URL. There were also a few placeholder pages with no logo.

2. For more information on social media and online personal finance, see our Online Banking Report #144/145.

U.S. Bank Uses Login Splashscreen for Security Warning

The best way to get the attention of your online banking customers is by dropping a landing page in front of them right after they login. It’s a bit annoying, but if used judiciously it can be extremely effective. PayPal has been using this technique for most of the eight years I’ve had an account there.

U.S. Bank is fairly new to this technique, using it just a few times a year for service-related messages. The latest, a 100-word message that reads like it was crafted by the legal department, was posted on Nov. 29 and warned customers about fake emails (screenshot below). 

It’s a good idea to remind customers about your email policies to help them avoid scams. However, U.S. Bank only warns against low-tech fakes asking for account info or PINs. Few consumers would fall for that any more. The bank fails to address the more common, and far more effective, approach of sending users to a fake website via a disguised link. The bank should explain what a genuine U.S. Bank email looks like and how to tell it apart from the fakes. 

A few other ways to make this message more effective:

  • Link to an area on website for more info on security
  • Provide an email address and/or phone number to call if there is a question about the validity of a bank message
  • Use a professional copywriter to craft a clearer and more concise message
  • Use a larger font
  • Use a heading or subheading that introduces the specific subject 
  • Add a graphic to make the topic standout, for example the security image from U.S. Bank’s homepage (inset above)

Schwab Promotes 4% APY Checking Account on Homepage

I never thought I'd see the day that Charles Schwab featured a checking account on its homepage (see note 1). Even Schwab, that built its business catering to do-it-yourself individual investors, wants a piece of those cash balances sitting in non-interest checking or low-rate checking/savings accounts.

With many major banks still paying next to nothing on deposits (as low as 0.10% annually on savings, see note 2), direct banks and other non-traditional outlets are still looking to grab deposit share even though most have dropped their promotional rates below the magic 5% mark (previous coverage here). 

Schwab.com homepage (18 Oct. 2007, 11 a.m. Pacific)

Schwab login page (18 Oct. 2007, 11 a.m. Pacific)

Schwab login page with checking promotion


Note
:

1. The bank promotion is on Schwab's main site, NOT a special landing page or Schwab Bank page.

2. Memo to US Bank: Don't you think it's time to raise your savings account rates? I have my checking account at US Bank and was thinking of parking some cash for a few weeks in an interest-bearing account. But I was shocked when I looked at the rates. There is nothing I could apply for online that would pay more than 0.40% and most paid just 0.10% (see inset).  

That's no typo; one-tenth of one percent on savings accounts across all balance levels. That's less than a $1 per month on a $10,000 balance! Pre-tax.

There's only one deposit account that cracks the 1% mark, Maximum Money Market, which pays 2% to 2.5% for balances greater than $10,000. But you can't even apply for that one online, you have to visit a branch. 

I don't care how much you make on the so-called lazy money, a rate page that looks like US Bank's (see screenshot above) is a marketing and PR disaster.  

US Bank Pitches Electronic Statements at Login

Using a splash screen after logging in to online banking (see screenshot below), U.S. Bank is asking customers to move to electronic statements, specifically for credit card and loan accounts, although the online-only option is also available for checking accounts. I saw the message, dated Aug. 20, for the first time today. I've been a customer of U.S. Bank through the entire online era (note 1) and this is the first time I recall being asked at login to go paperless. Unlike PayPal, BofA, and others, U.S. Bank rarely uses the login splash screen technique. 

Let's look closer at the bank's pitch:

Title: Internet Banking Updates
NetBanker comments: OK…but would be more effective if it directly mentioned the purpose of the message

Opening line: U.S. Bank Internet Banking just keeps getting better! 
NB comment: That's a bad opening line. This is not a new feature. Some U.S. Bank customers have had electronic statements available for 13 years now. Everyone customer has had them for at least 9 or 10 years. The only new thing is that you stop receiving paper statement, hardly the "bank getting better." Most customers know this is a cost savings move for the bank.

Benefit statement (bullets): Online Statements Only help you: Deter fraud, Reduce clutter, Manage your account online….
NB comments: Beside the grammatically challenged opening, the bank did a good job getting the anti-fraud message into the first bullet. The second bullet, "reduce clutter," is OK, but the third is pretty weak. Why are you telling online banking customers they will benefit from "managing your account online?" And only 18 months of archives is hardly going to give customers a good feeling about doing away with their paper statement.

US Bank's online statement signup Call to action: The bank provides specific instructions on how to turn off the paper statement.
NB comments: The specific instructions are good, but a small graphic of where to click would be more powerful (see the example at right). Also, the choice to view the message later is a user-friendly option.

Overall graphic design: The splash screen is laid out like a letter.
NB comments: That's OK, but a graphic image or two would give it a more modern and professional image.

Overall grade: C
NB comments: The bank does a good job getting right to the point. But the overall look and feel along with some of the specific copy points lower the score. This would have been an A- in 1997, but a decade later, Internet users expect and deserve a more sophisticated message.  

US Bank online banking splash screen

Note:

1. Full disclosure: I was the lead product developer on U.S. Bank's online banking system launched in 1994.

Mobile Alerts Can Help Stem the Tide of Overdraft Fee Disclosure Regulation

MarketWatch article It looks like overdraft fees will be a popular target this election cycle (see inset). It's an absolutely predictable, and avoidable outcome, had banks done a better job of helping customers avoid debit card-induced fees (see previous coverage here).

But the genie is out of the bottle now, and the goose that laid the golden egg may soon be dead, or at least restricted to quarters (how's that for a mashup of metaphors in one sentence..sorry, sometimes you just need to get them out of your system).

The most onerous of current proposals making the rounds on Capital Hill calls for real-time notification of pending overdrafts at the ATM and point-of-sale. While that's probably not technically feasible in the short-term, it demonstrates just how expensive the remedies could be.   

Today's Center for Responsible Lending press conference announcing its finding that in 2005 banks levied $17 billion in overdraft fees plus $8 billion in NSF fees (see note 1), is sure to receive plenty of press for the next 15 months or longer. For example, the headline that made it into Dow Jones's MarketWatch today (see above) includes both "gouged" and "abusive," both dreaded terms in banking circles. 

So it's time to be proactive in education about overdraft-protection options. That includes aggressive marketing of systematic protections, such as automatic transfers to cover shortages and early-warning options such as email alerts (see note 2).

Mobile Banking to the Rescue
From a consumer-advocacy standpoint, the weakness of email alerts is that they are either overlooked or are too late to prevent a negative-balance situation. Mobile alerts, on the other hand, are much likelier to be read within minutes of being sent, providing crucial extra hours or even days of warning before balances fall below zero. And with mobile phone usage crossing most demographic and income lines, text messages can potentially reach farther into the lower-income segment of your customer base.  Widespread deployment of mobile alerts could help soothe consumer advocates and lawmakers.

So if you have had trouble getting senior management buyoff on your mobile banking ideas, clip yesterday's American Banker article about the new legislation (here).  Add this post to your business plan and run it up the flagpole (end of tired cliches… promise!).

Notes:

(1) Download the CRL white paper now (here). It's well written, thoroughly footnoted, and will be read by every personal finance and banking columnist in the country. You will want to have every bank exec that speaks to the press become familiar with the arguments. In my view, there are several assumptions that may inflate the industry OD/NSF estimates slightly, but the $124/yr in OD/NSF income per account, in their pool of 4,036 checking accounts, seems solid. And whether the "real" number is $25 billion or $15 billion, it doesn't materially affect their argument.  

(2) And if I were a bank, I'd look very hard at reverting back to FIFO check-clearing so I didn't end up like U.S. Bank, the example exposed in the CRL paper.

US Bank’s Over-Zealous Login Lockout

Looking for the ultimate in frustration? Try this sometime. Go to all of your bank, brokerage and credit card accounts and enter the correct username, then make up passwords and hit enter until you are locked out of your account. 

For research on a previous report in our Online Banking Report (here), I locked myself out of more than a dozen accounts. That was almost four years ago, and I have no plans to do that again, ever. However, yesterday, through a bit of miscommunication with my wife (note 1), we found ourselves locked out of our account at US Bank.

Due to this inadvertent bit of research, I found out that US Bank has added a "lock-out alert" (one step forward) to its messaging services, but fails to tell users what is going on and how to resolve it (two steps backwards). Here's what the alert looks like (see notes 2 & 3):

US Bank lock-out email message

Recommendations:

  • The alert (above) needs to tell users EXACTLY what to do next. US Bank correctly tells the 1% of users what to do if the failed login was not imitated by them (call the bank), but the bank fails to explain to the other 99%, who simply forgot their password, what they should do.
  • The screen displayed after lockout (see below) also must tell users EXACTLY what to do. US Bank's message to frustrated users: "Internet Banking is unable to verify the information you've entered. Please confirm your Personal ID and password." At the very least the bank should empathize with the user and explain the possible causes of the problem and link them to the password reset screen.  
  • Don't lock out users after only three or four attempts: US Bank locked my wife out after 3 or 4 trys, more stringent that the six allowed in our test four years ago. That is just too few. Most users who make a mistake (attempt 1), will retype the exact same info (attempt 2), then try once more paying very close attention to their typing (attempt 3), before trying a different password (attempt 4). So at minimum you must allow four tries. Even better is 5 or 6 or up to ten. The cost in customer service for locking out at 3 or 4 attempts is far more than any fraud that will be prevented with such strict measures.
  • Help users remember they created a new password: In our case, if the on-screen error message had said, "You recently changed your password, are you using the new one?", the whole episode could have been avoided. Instead, US Bank gives no information to its customers (see screenshot below). It doesn't even explicitly tell them they entered the wrong username/password. It just drops them onto this blank page that has a vague message about logging in.
  • Warn users before lockout: Tell users they are about to be locked out, with a warning, "One more incorrect attempt will lock you out of your account. If you've forgotten your username or password, click here." 
  • Let users back in after lockout: The last time we tested, US Bank allowed users to log back in 24 hours after lockout if they remember their username and password (note 4). That's a good policy, but why 24 hours? Why not 12 hours, or 3 hours, or 1. If you have the correct username and password, why should you not be allowed back into your account after a relatively short period of time? 

Enough with the rant. I know these policies are in place to discourage unauthorized entry. But you also shouldn't run up your customer service costs, not to mention irritating customers, with arbitrary lockout parameters.

US Bank's screen after an unsuccesful login attempt gives almost zero info


Notes
:

1. Anyone with a joint checking account can probably recognize that "a bit of a miscommunication," is a euphemism for, "I forgot to tell her I changed the password."

2. An alert is generated for each failed attempt. We receive three identical messages. The email address has been erased from the screenshot.

3. Note the email is generated from the URL, cs.usbank-email.com, which cannot be verified through direct navigation (it results in an error message). That's phishy looking. Emails should carry the normal, user-recognizable URL, in this case, usbank.com. If that's not practical, at least post a page at the email URL verifying that the URL is genuine.

4. It's been about 16 hours since lockout, and we still cannot get back into the account.

U.S. Bank Adds Payday Loans to Online Banking

Here's something we hadn't expected, payday loans from a major bank delivered through its online banking program. Minneapolis, MN-based U.S. Bank, not known for its pioneering work in online banking, quietly added payday lending to its platform recently.*

How it works
Users are alerted to the feature through a green link at the top of their checking-account transaction detail (see below).

DDA trans detail CLICK TO ENLARGE

Clicking on the link returns the well-designed "advance" pop-up screen where users can elect to take an advance from their next paycheck or from one of their pre-existing credit accounts (see below).

After selecting payday advance, users choose the amount and then follow the instructions to complete the loan. Funds are moved in real-time with no credit check. Since we don't have a direct-deposit paycheck, we didn't expect to qualify for an advance. However, we did receive a token "advance limit" of $80 (see "Available Credit" in lower-right box below).

Pricing & Disclosures
The advances are priced at 10% of the advanced amount, with a $20 minimum advance. Advances are automatically deducted from the checking account in one month if not already repaid. The APR if the amount is outstanding for the full month is 120%. Only one advance can be outstanding at a time.

In our example below, we chose a $20 advance and were required to repay $22.

The program is well-disclosed with a lengthy FAQ and Disclosure Statement (click on the continuation link at the bottom to see these documents).

Analysis
Putting an advance button at the top of checking-account transaction data is a great idea. However, at least in our case, the bank's implementation was questionable. Although we maintain as low a balance as possible in this checking account, we often run $10,000 or more through it. Also, we have an open credit limit of $20,000 on a U.S. Bank credit card linked to this account. Offering us an $80 advance limit is ridiculous.

Also, we're not sure that online payday lending is strategically very smart. Why charge 120% APR on small advances of one-month duration, risking customer and press backlash, when you could instead upsell an overdraft line of credit with a reasonable APR? 

The bank would stand to make much more on a reasonably priced overdraft line of credit, which could be delivered nearly as seamlessly. For example, a $2,000 outstanding balance on an 18% line of credit would provide $200 or more of annual profit vs. about $40 for a pair of $200 advances. And the customer will likely be more satisfied with the credit line. 

Although the bank demonstrates in its disclosures (see notes below) that its program is less expensive than an NSF fee or a typical payday loan, the 120% APR will likely create a bit of a furor with consumer advocates lambasting the bank in the press. It appears to have escaped notice so far.   

U.S. Bank deserves a pat on the back for its innovation, but without more consumer-friendly pricing, the payday-advance program may backfire on them.

*We have several accounts at U.S. Bank and noticed it this week for the first time.

End Notes (click on the following link for more information):

Program Disclosures

Usbank_ddaadvance_terms

Program FAQs

Usbank_ddaadvance_faq

US Bank Introduces Email Alerts 2.0

Friday, US Bank <usbank.com> began using a new design for its email alerts. It has a softer, more modern look to it (see before and after screenshots below). The layout and copy are identical to the previous version.

The new look arrived about the time we intended to post a rant about the lack of creativity in bank messaging. One of our examples was US Bank, which had sent us the same basic confirmation message more than 1,000 times over the past three years.

While it's good to see an improved design, it's still pertinent to note that there is more to the lack-of-creativity argument than just the font and background colors. The problem with email alerts is that after receiving them two or three times per week for several years, many users may ignore them. To keep that from happening, financial institutions need to upgrade their messaging system; let's call it Alerts 2.0.

Here are some important features of Alerts 2.0 (for a detailed look at bank messaging, see Online Banking Report #91/92) :

  • Educate about preference changes: Once or twice per year, perhaps more frequently for those receiving a large number of alerts, remind customers about the types of alerts available and how to change them.
  • Provide periodic summaries: Someone getting six alerts each week would likely appreciate a weekly summary of all changes.
  • Change the "look & feel" periodically: Don't wait three years to change the design. Create a template so that the alert design can easily be changed to fit the season or holiday.
  • Gently cross-sell: Alerts should be kept primarily factual. But every once in a while, most of your customers would appreciate a low-key "reminder" of relevant services, such as overdraft protection, credit report monitoring, and so on.
  • Give thanks: As trite as it sounds, don't forget to thank the customer, at least every once in a while. For example, you might add a thank-you when receiving a large deposit (or ANY deposit for that matter). Also, a periodic "thanks for participating in online banking" and/or email alerts would be appropriate. This would also be a good time to ask for feedback on the service.

US Bank email alerts redesign (click on images to enlarge):
New  Usbank_alert_new_1 Old Usbank_alert_old_1

–JB

Free Wi-Fi in Bank Branches? Wi not?

Freewifi_1 Providing free wi-fi is like offering a toll-free number 30 years agoa consumer-friendly way to make you stand out from the crowd. But unlike call centers, which have grown into multi-million dollar cost centers, free wi-fi only  runs about $50 per month per location, a price that is sure to fall over the coming years.

There are two ways to jump on the wi-fi bandwagon:

  1. Offering access to users in branch lobbies
  2. Sponsoring free access at local gathering spots such as coffee shops, community centers, or libraries

AnalysisUmpqua_lobby_3
If you are of the branch-as-a-retail-store mindset such as Washington Mutual's Occasio concept or Umpqua Bank's plasma-TV zones (see right), then free wi-fi is a great way to bring customers into the branch and keep them there (until presumably they buy something). Even more important than the opportunity to sell checking accounts to laptop-toting visitors, is the publicity you'll receive as the first bank in your area to offer such a trendy service. Only 15 U.S. bank branches currently offer wi-fi access according to JiWire (see Appendix below).

If you are concerned that high-schoolers looking for MySpace friends will inundate your lobby, you can let the coffee shop across the street provide the seating while you sponsor free Internet access (through a service provider).

With either approach you can require users to enter a bank-branded screen first, register, and create a wi-fi access username and password for subsequent access. You can then use this information to market your online banking and other services.

-JB

Appendix: Wi-fi in U.S. bank branches
JiWire lists 110,512 wireless Internet "hot spots" worldwide in its online database <jiwire.com>. Fewer than 1,000 are at bank locations, mostly in South Korea. In the United States, only 16 bank branchesout of about 80,000currently offer wireless Internet access to customers, at least according to JiWire (see list below), and six of those are in the San Francisco area:

US Bank – 2 branches in the SF Bay area
Citibank – 1 branch in the SF Bay area
Integra – 1 branch in Indianapolis, IN
Bank of America – 2 branches in the SF Bay area, 1 in Miami, 1 in Norwalk, CT (Fleet)
Union Bank of California – 1 branch in the SF Bay area
First National Bank – 1 branch in San Diego
First National Bank – 1 branch in Hutchinson, KS
Cass County Bank – 1 branch in Queen City, TX
Charter One Bank – 1 branch in Cleveland, OH and 1 branch in Albany, NY
Umpqua Bank – at least 1 branch in Portland (reported in the press, NOT in JiWire listing)