Customers don't mind hearing from their banks, as long they treat them like a friend.
Consumers have long complained about receiving impersonal, irrelevant communications from their banks; think the direct mail credit card offer sent to a customer who already has that card.
However, with communication tailored specifically for the customer and delivered in a digital format, banks can improve their relationships with customers and maybe even make their customers excited to hear from them.
That's the rationale behind TD Bank's new "TD for Me" service, which was released this month and is designed to deliver customers personalized offers, tips and information from the bank.
"Customers have an expectation now, they only want you to interact with them if you know who they are and understand their needs," said Rizwan Khalfan, chief digital and payments offer for TD Bank. "They don't want to be treated like just another number on your books. Instead of just trying to sell stuff, we're focusing on deepening that customer relationship."
This approach could be an antidote to the problem that many see in banking's sales culture. Banks have tended to see the world through a lens focused on pushing products as a way to build stickiness and beef up the bottom line. In light of the recent Wells Fargo scandal, this approach is increasingly coming under fire. Meanwhile, critics, including many in the fintech space, say that bank need to put the customers' needs first and then build a relationship around that.
Indeed, Khalfan said if banks can make themselves seem like friends, customers will naturally want to come to their bank for additional financial needs.
TD for Me, powered by the Canadian startup Flybits' secure cloud-based mobile intelligence product, provides customers with things like special nearby offers, helpful tips and details on local events, with more content and capabilities to be added in future updates. The opt-in service is currently available to TD's Canadian customers, but will likely be rolled out to U.S. customers as well.
"We think of it as a digital concierge for a customer's financial life," Khalfan said. "We're thinking about going beyond traditional banking and offering more intuitive and personalized experiences."
For example, customers who choose to use the service can enter a geographic zone, typically where they live or work. If the customer has expressed an interested in purchasing a home, for instance, they will be notified via their mobile device if they are passing near a new residential construction site in their chosen zone, with an offer for a TD adviser to meet them there. Another example is if a customer expresses an interest in live music, the app will notify them when TD-sponsored concerts in their area are happening, Khalfan said.
"It's really about keeping the customer at the center, and helping them based on their presences," he said.
Future upgrades to the service aim to help TD customers with other nonbanking aspects of their lives. Khalfan said one such aspect the bank is currently working on is if a customer has tickets for a baseball game, the service will help them find their seats, showing a map of the ballpark and directing them. They could also order food and drinks delivered directly to their seats, he added.
This style of personalized communications can be a boon for banks and give them a leg up on competitors who don't offer such experiences. According to a consumer survey conducted by Harris Poll in conjunction with Segmint, a provider of analytics and marketing tools, 67 % of millennials (defined by the survey as those between the ages of 18 and 34) along with consumers who have children under 18, would be willing to view a personalized ad from their bank that shows them a way to help reach their personal finance goals.
Another bank that has sought to tailor its approach is Talmer Bancorp in Troy, Mich. In April it began using Segmint technology, which uses key lifestyle indicators that reveal things like individual's spending patterns, transactional behavior and lifestyle. Using Segmint's marketing platform, the bank began targeting customers with offerings that will help them reach their financial goals, said Mary Weiss, digital marketing manager at Talmer. (Chemical Financial Corp. acquired Talmer Bancorp earlier this month. It is set to be consolidated into Chemical Bank in the fourth quarter.)
When serving generic, mass campaign digital ads, click-through rates were at 1%, she said. After delivering the personalized ads, Weiss said click-through rates increase to 5.7%.
"Providing relevant advertisements to our customers is obviously more effective," she said. "For example, we identified a group of customers who have teenagers and college students and we've been able to serve those customers personalized ads that feature our student checking offering."
Weiss added that if a customer does click on an ad and eventually does purchase that product, they won't see that same ad again.
Banks sit on such a massive amount of customer data that delivering personalized communications such as this should not be difficult. They simply need to mine the data they already have more effectively, said Rob Heiser, Segmint's CEO.
"Banks have a responsibility to put products in front of customers in a timely and relevant manner in the channels they are already on," Heiser said. "It's about how do you act with customers when you have those small moments of time with them. That's very critical."