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Wells Fargo Offers Free Alerts

Wells Fargo has begun to offer free, comprehensive e-mail notifications to its retail and small business customers.

Wells Fargo will provide its customers with free account alerts, which are e-mails triggered by occurrences originating from several different account types. "We've had e-mail alerts for quite some time related to billpay, brokerage and mortgage accounts," says Jim Smith, executive vice president, consumer Internet products, Wells Fargo & Co. (San Francisco, $428 billion in assets) "But this is our first foray into detailed, account-based alerts around deposit and credit card accounts."

Accordingly, the alerts can notify customers about when they have reached account balance thresholds, provide warning on an excessive number of incorrect log-in attempts, or send a reminder on impending IRA funding deadlines or tax deadlines. These e-mails are purely informational, and do not contain any links back to the bank's Web site so as to avoid the threat of phishing.

Account alerts can be configured to send information to up to three separate e-mail accounts. This supports situations in which, for example, a parent may want to keep tabs on a child's spending.

The need for the account alerts service was established through customer research, including surveys, focus groups and detailed quantitative studies. "We spent time on what customers would want to understand about their banking information and how they'd like to receive it," says Smith.

Once satisfied that the need existed, Wells Fargo commenced with a user-centric design process to come up with an interface that customers could figure out by themselves in a self-service model. Wells Fargo also will market the service through its retail branches. "We've developed something that we think is fairly intuitive," notes Smith.

Wells Fargo developed the service in-house, using various components including automated communications technology from Centerpost (Chicago). While the current service currently is geared towards sending e-mails formatted for a PC, a future enhancement this year will enable a "reduced-text" alert to appear on customers' cell phones.

For Wells Fargo, the benefit of offering the free service is to satisfy customer demand and boost retention. "We believe that customers will feel that they have a stronger relationship with Wells Fargo -- and be more likely to buy more products from us," says Smith.

Furthermore, customers who do not bank online currently may be enticed to do so with the assurance that they would receive instant notifications of any activity via e-mail. Smith cites research estimates that 35 percent of those who don't bank online would be more likely to bank online if their bank were to offer alerts.

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