Since introducing Web banking in August, the Lititz, Pa., company has been making house calls to explain the Internet technology and help get customers up and running. And to zip its sales representatives from door to door, the $4.3 billion-asset company has bought a fleet of Volkswagen Beetles adorned with the colors and logos of its subsidiaries.
The door-to-door campaign has surpassed all expectations, the company said. In fewer than three months, Susquehanna has signed up 6,000 Internet banking customers, by far exceeding the goal of 2,200 for this year.
It has also created unexpected cross-selling opportunities for Susquehanna's sales force. So far, it has garnered more than 1,000 deposit accounts and loan applications from the home visits.
Edward Balderston Jr., the vice president responsible for the program, said its success surprises even him. "We knew with all the clutter out there, we had to find a way to distinguish ourselves somehow," he said. "But we had no idea how fast this would all take off."
Susquehanna's nine Beetles serve its sales people in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey. After finding that many people prefer talking about other products in the comfort of their homes, the company now offers a house call to anyone interested in opening an account -- even if the prospective customer has no interest in on-line banking.
Mr. Balderston said he thinks his company's willingness to cater to customers' schedules has been a big plus. Most of those requesting home visits are couples 40 to 55 years old, with dual careers and little time during office hours to do their banking.
"Today's customers are calling out for convenience," he said. "This program is perfect for people who can't come into our branches during the day."
The employees who make up the "Beetle brigade" were selected from Susquehanna's customer service center, he said. Each went through four weeks of training to learn how to use the Internet software and to cross-sell. They practiced on bank employees.
Mr. Balderston said that once customers invite Susquehanna employees into the house, they are usually an easy sell. Though the program has not yet broken even, he said he expects the cross-selling to make it profitable soon.
Susquehanna's concept drew rave reviews from a marketing specialist not affiliated with the banking company.
"This program is going to pay off for them well before it ever breaks even," said Kevin B. Tynan, president of Tynan Marketing Inc. in Chicago. "It's exactly the sort of thing all community banks should be looking to do."
Too many banks are content to simply have a Web site, without worrying about how to make it work to their advantage, he said.
"The Internet has become more than just an end product for" Susquehanna, Mr. Tynan said. "This is an innovative idea, and banking needs more innovative ideas."