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Top 7 Trends to Improve Your Bank or CU’s Customer Service

A man in a blue button-up.
Marc Healy, executive director of retail and marketing
7 min read
Young beautiful asian woman using smart phone and credit card for shopping online in coffee shop cafe, vintage tone color stock photo
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Banking is emotional. Sure, making a cash withdrawal may not elicit the kind of reaction that, say, a buy-one-get-one shoe sale might, but money is tied to most major life events: starting a new job, buying a home, growing your family. We like to feel confident and supported when making big decisions with our money — and your bank or credit union’s customer service likely plays a large part in this emotional process.

A well-designed customer service program can make all the difference between a stressful banking interaction and a positive, supportive experience that guarantees a loyal customer or member for years to come. Here, we explore 7 banking customer service trends that can help your financial institution (FI) gain and retain happy customers, members and employees.


Top 7 Trends to Improve Your Bank or CU’s Customer Service

What We’re Seeing In The Market

Instead of sterile transactions, consumers have come to expect full retail experiences from their favorite stores. Retail banking is no different — in an industry that has long had a somewhat dry, buttoned-down reputation, customers’ and members’ expectations are prompting banks and credit unions to rethink their approach to customer service.

When seeking to engage customers and members, many banks and credit unions jump right into new remote banking initiatives or promotional marketing campaigns. While these efforts often have a positive effect on customer satisfaction, it helps to understand the current landscape of retail banking before making big moves.

Here’s what we’re seeing in the market:

Banking brand loyalty increases when customers and members feel:

  • Appreciated
  • Respected
  • Valued

90% of customers or members who feel valued will advocate for the brand

90% of Americans base their choice of FI on customer service

Millennials are 50% less likely than baby boomers to be brand-loyal to their FI if the customer experience doesn’t deliver

$75 billion
Total annual loss of revenue due to poor customer service

Sources: Forbes, MediaPost

In order to grow your institution’s customer base and foster brand loyalty, we’re highlighting 7 trends that will have a direct, positive impact on your customers’ and members’ experience.

1. Personalization is a Priority

One of the biggest factors affecting someone’s choice in brands is the level of customer service personalization. Banks and credit unions are now encouraged to diversify their communications based on individual customer profiles and preferences.

With 360-degree CRM capabilities, FIs gain a comprehensive understanding of their market segments and can target their marketing efforts to reach the appropriate audience. Whether they are aware of it or not, customers are much more likely to put their trust in a brand that seems to value them and take a vested interest in their needs.

Easy access to comprehensive customer data allows tellers and other staff to tailor their communications to each unique customer, offering guidance and suggesting relevant services based on their transaction history and past activities. When launching a new CRM initiative, customer feedback is key; generate feedback and survey requests after each interaction, including:

  • In-branch transactions and meetings
  • Customer support calls
  • Website and mobile activities
  • Digital tool experiences (ATMs, ITMs, touch tables, etc.)
  • Promotional marketing initiatives

This last item is an incredibly valuable opportunity for customization. Unique, high-quality promotional items are an excellent way to ensure your brand stays top-of-mind once a customer leaves your branch, especially if the items are specific to that customer’s interests and needs.

The drive behind personalization is that no two customers or members are alike. Likewise, what works for one bank or credit union may not work for another. Find what works for your branch by conducting tests for frequency, messaging, communications channels, and response to featured products.

Remember that, if a customer is dissatisfied with their experience, they have dozens of channels at their fingertips through which to voice their displeasure — use your CRM tools to proactively engage at-risk customers or members.

2. Consumers Love Self-Service

The numbers don’t lie: Americans overwhelmingly prefer mobile banking. However, that does not mean that the 70% of U.S. respondents who primarily rely on their banking app never visit a physical branch. Ironically, the brick-and-mortar experience becomes more attractive if customers have the option to self-service. Round-the-clock services like external ATMs and ITMs (interactive teller machines) mean that customers and members aren’t limited by your business hours.

According to TimeTrade, integrating self-service options with traditional customer support can:

  • Improve consumer satisfaction levels
  • Enhance the customer experience
  • Improve customer retention
  • Increase conversion
  • Increase engagement
  • Reduce support calls

Ideally, your in-branch teams will have the expert knowledge customers and members need when conducting transactions, but the option to solve issues on their own will have a positive effect on customers’ and members’ perception of your business. Utilize chatbots, tutorials, and FAQ databases to answer customers’ straightforward, support-related questions — this will free up your employees’ time to answer the questions that require more complex, personalized knowledge.

Related Case Study: Hawaii State Federal Credit Union integrates innovative technology solutions to offer greater convenience. Read more >>

3. FinTech Is Here to Stay (Both Online and In-Branch)

Technological advancements in banking don’t have to be limited to mobile apps — in-branch digital solutions can add a layer of meaningful engagement for your customers to members.

  • Incorporate interactive, informative video walls and digital content feeds that encourage visitors to spend more time in your branch
  • Update ATMs and ITMs with biometric security features, such as voice, eye, and face scanning
  • Install up-to-date video conferencing technology in your conference rooms
  • Integrate your mobile app with your ATM/ITM interface
  • Convert old data storage solutions to new, searchable, secure formats
  • Install video teller devices in your drive-through
  • Embrace social media and KPIs to target your ideal audience with enhanced marketing efforts

At Element, we have a long track record of looking to other industries for retail banking inspiration. We take note of the tech innovations popping up in other retail sectors and challenge our clients to envision how these solutions might help them deliver the ultimate customer experience.

Related Case Study: Idaho Central Credit Union embraces new tech to connect with their community. Read more >>

4. Empowered Employees Show Up

One reason consumers choose mobile over in-person banking is the lack of human interaction in a mobile app. Too many customers have been frustrated and turned off by poor customer service interactions with employees who aren’t properly trained to answer their questions, or who can’t access their account information in a timely fashion. In fact, according to Engageware, one of the top reasons people switch banks is the feeling that they are being given the “runaround” by employees.

In order to avoid this pitfall, banks and credit unions can cross-train their employees to be “universal bankers” who, if they can’t answer a detailed question about loan interest, know exactly who to ask or where to find this information.

A positive face-to-face (or virtual) customer interaction with a knowledgeable teller can help build confidence in your institution and reinforce the value of in-branch transactions. And when employees are confident in their abilities, they become much more engaged in delivering an excellent customer experience.

Empowered employees need:

  • Access to current customer data
  • A knowledge base from which to answer a wide range of banking questions
  • A searchable resource database with accurate, up-to-date industry information
  • Expert training in all relevant digital and mobile banking tools
  • Easy access to subject matter experts within their branch network
  • A forum in which to provide feedback and identify areas for growth

This last point is especially important in increasing employee engagement. When employees feel that their voices are heard and considered, they are much more likely to take an active role in building a better branch.

5. Financial Literacy Makes a Difference

The more customers and members understand about their finances, the more likely they are to engage with their FI and even explore new products and services. Financial literacy programs targeted to a broad range of customers and members across the socio-economic spectrum are the most effective when it comes to customer growth and retention.

“Targeted financial education programs can open new roads into untapped populations,” according to Ammar Askari, director for Community Affairs Outreach within the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). “Financial education programs can also create goodwill at the community level and strengthen relationships with local customers and community partners.” Banks and credit unions who provide financial education in low- and moderate-income areas can even receive credit under the Community Reinvestment Act.

Many banks and credit unions offer financial education courses tailored to their specific products and services. There are also lots of nonprofit organizations that focus specifically on financial literacy — Operation HOPE and Junior Achievement are two that offer great educational resources.

In order to facilitate these customer education programs, banks and credit unions should consider incorporating more conference rooms and open-concept meeting spaces into their floorplans. Gathering areas that serve multiple functions are especially valuable, as they can be equipped with digital display solutions that help create engaging educational opportunities.

Related Case Study: UmassFive College Credit Union transforms their space into a community-centered financial hub. Read more >>

6. Consistency is Key

Amid the excitement of updating their digital presence, we notice that a lot of banks and credit unions forget to align their physical space with their website or mobile presence. Consumers can spot inconsistencies from a mile away, and it’s a fast track to eroding trust from there.

Fintech Futures found that 46% of people who manage their finances online switch devices while completing an activity (for example, from a smartphone to a PC or vice versa). With customers and members moving between interfaces, it’s important to maintain consistency — not just from a visual standpoint, but in terms of available information, language, navigability, ease-of-use, and access to support.

If your institution has recently rebranded, it can be confusing to customers or members if your physical space does not match your digital space. Aligning design elements across your branch network can help set customers at ease, since they’ll know they’re in the right place no matter the zip code.

Related Case Study: Consistent branding across a large network tied this new build to its existing branch partners. Read more >>

7. Customers & Members Want a Partner

Gone are the days of the stiff, impersonal banking experience. In this world of digital connectivity, lightning-speed transactions, and universal tellers, customers and members expect a personalized experience that delivers near-instant results. That may sound like a tall order on paper — how can we be friendly and fast? — but successful retail banking comes down to partnerships.

As we observed up front, money is emotional. Customers and members who feel like their bank or credit union has their back are more likely to recommend their FI to others. Expanding your services beyond the traditional lender-borrower dynamic can help reinforce your branch’s reputation as a supportive, full-service hub for all things financial.

Consider incorporating these fee-based services into your existing offerings:

  • Small business advising
  • Strategic financial planning
  • Bookkeeping
  • Financial literacy education
  • Capital raising workshops

Related Case Study: In order to accommodate its new product offerings, a historic seaside bank brings its space into the 21st century. Read more >>

What’s Next for Your Branch?

The ribbon cutting at a new or remodeled branch does not signal the end of an Element project. We remain in contact with our clients long after a project is completed.

As such, we learn a lot from the feedback they receive from their customers and members — how they feel about the new space, their interactions with new tech tools, and how the updated employee processes and choreography affect the customer experience. An optimized physical space can have a massive effect on your branch’s traffic and satisfaction ratings, and can make implementing the customer service recommendations in this article that much more effective.

If you’re ready to super-charge your customers’ experience, reach out to the Element team today — we’d love to help make your goals concrete.


What does an Element project look like?

Download our 2023 Look Book here.

A man in a blue button-up.
Marc Healy
executive director of retail and marketing

Often greeted by the team as “Mr. HEALY!,” with all suitable pomp, Marc is known to be a positive force of nature in the office. After graduating from Western Washington University with a degree in Business and a concentration in Finance, Marc proceeded to leap right into leadership positions. His career now spans over 35 years, with experience in marketing, sales, and finance.


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