Bank Web sites are like bank accounts-everybody has to have one, the presumption being that without them, customers head for the exits. The question, of course, is what does the Internet site do for the bank? Since most Web sites are less than a year old, the honest answer is: No one knows. No known database exists to quantify the effect on bank customers, so bank executives deciding whether to make these investments are forced to rely on common sense.

There are worse ideas, though, than basing strategic marketing decisions on common sense. Common sense will tell you, for instance, that the more a bank lets customers explain what they want, and then gives that to them, the happier those customers will be and the more likely customers will be to stay with the bank and become more profitable over time.

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