While nearly 66% of retail bankers say their electronic banking program saves money, less than 20% believe that their institutions are where they need to be, a survey has found.

Banks are making some common mistakes in the way they market electronic banking services, said Richard G. Lyons Jr., executive vice president and chief operating officer of Internet Inc., Reston, Va., which operates the Most automated teller machine network.

In a recent speech to industry executives, Mr. Lyons shared the results of his company's research, which shows that many retail bankers have not yet made clear the message they want to impart to consumers who may be interested in electronic banking services.

For example, interviews conducted with 140 retail banking managers, marketing managers, and branch managers found that 42% believe their banks have a clear electronic funds transfer strategy. Only 27% said their customers are well aware of all of the institution's electronic banking services.

"Consumers' antennae are up higher when they need what you're selling," said Mr. Lyons, who suggested that banks would achieve a greater degree of success in marketing electronic banking if they emphasized the hassle-free lifestyle it allows consumers.

However, he lamented that banks are not doing that yet. His research found that 65% of retail bankers believe their banks spend more time showing the different checks that customers may order when opening accounts and not enough time explaining electronic banking services.

Those include such things as ATM services, point of sale debit services, bill payments using a telephone or personal computer, and other home banking services.

While 64% of households say that using electronic banking services is more convenient than going to a branch, 58% of the bankers interviewed by Internet said consumers aren't yet ready for many EFT programs.

The statistics, said Mr. Lyons, indicate that consumers are much more willing to accept alternative delivery channels than bankers realize. He said bankers must communicate the availability of these channels in order to survive.

Mr. Lyons quoted two unidentified retail bankers. One confessed that "long-range planning at our bank is anything over one calendar quarter." The other said, "At our institution, we're being asked to do more with less. It's hard to think about the future when you're up to your ears in taking care of today."

Mr. Lyons hinted that such attitudes must be banished. He said that by establishing clear marketing objectives, focusing on customers, managing the brand, and making the right investment, bankers can make their electronic banking strategies a success.

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