Not Easy To Make It Easy To Do Business

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PNC Bank's brand slogan is "PNC makes it easy to do business."

But getting to that point hasn't been so, well, easy.

"The role of the branch is to create a customer experience that supports the 'PNC makes it easy to do business' brand promise," explained Neil Hall, EVP with PNC Bank, which operates in a half-dozen mid-Atlantic and Midwest states. "The bank is seeking to grow customers and create financial value through 'face to face' sales and service. When we talk about what we're trying to accomplish we're looking to be a relationship-based bank, with checking accounts at the heart of the relationship."

The First Challenge

Retail challenge No. 1 for PNC was local customer responsiveness, according to Hall.

"You can manage sales in a very central organization sales, but it's much more difficult to manage in a central organization the customer experience," he said. "So over the past year and a half we have sought to decentralize and move decision-making closer to the customer while orchestrating a consistent customer experience."

It has sought to do that by elevating branch and regional managers within the bank, by putting in place branch-centered P&L, by implementing a customer experience scorecard, along with a recognition and reward program.

The bank, in short, has sought to make for more local decisions rather than campaign-executed decisions, Hall noted.

Retail Challenge Number 2 for PNC, said Hall, was harnessing customer information and sales automation technology.

The question was what to do in order to push execution of that customer experience pushed down closer to the customer, he observed. He said the bank was producing approximately four-million leads, information that was then driven down to the branch and which resulted into "dialing for dollars."

"But one of the things we began to look at was testing whether that was the most efficient way to get growth," he said. "We concluded no, and embarked on a new model there. The branch is about face-to-face customer contact. It's far more efficient to put outbound customer contact in the hands of the call center, and put inbound telephone contact into the hands of the branch"

What the bank also learned was that business banking has become an "ever-more important" part of its branching strategy.

"We're also very careful about proximity. We know that customers who are within a mile or two of the branch will consider you," he said, "so why waste the branch manager's time going all over the trade area? We want to make sure when they go out that they come back and create traffic."

Part of PNC's strategy has been the creation of a targeted platform and marketing initiative.

Hall said it has executed that plan by leveraging outside-the-branch activities to create sales/customer growth opportunities.

That includes workplace and university banking programs, a "chairman's challenge" (the chairman said four years ago he wanted every person in the company a sales person and the Chairman's Challenge rewards non-client contact people for referrals); a mortgage origination business and expansion of its merchant sales network.

Of the last two initiative, Hall noted, "Neither one of those offers huge returns for us, but what they do is bring with them dedicated sales forces" who can provide referrals.

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