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Katherine Burger
Katherine Burger
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Mixed Messages

One step forward, one step back. That's the way I often feel about my dealings (as a consumer) with banks.

One step forward, one step back. That's the way I often feel about my dealings (as a consumer) with banks. It continues to fascinate me that financial institutions can be almost simultaneously in synch in some ways with how people want to do business with a service provider, and totally clueless in others.

On the side of progress was my recent experience of applying for a new credit card that would allow me to amass airline miles when I made purchases (naturally I've been receiving these offers for some time; I finally came across one that inspired me to action). Several weeks after I applied by phone, I got a message at work: Please call So-and-So at X Bank card member services. Wondering if there was a problem with my credit, I apprehensively called back. After a series of questions to verify my identity (So-and-So was a bit taken aback when I asked if I could verify his, in turn), the representative pointed out that I already had a card issued by the bank that I hadn't used in some time.

Already on the defensive, I assumed that this was somehow going to disqualify me. So, I was pleasantly surprised when So-and-So informed me that because my credit record showed that I was highly qualified, X Bank planned to issue the new card, cancel my old account, and transfer its credit limit to the new account. So this is how CRM works! I doubt rocket science was involved, but I was impressed and even a little delighted by this use of analytics.

The flip side of the experience related to the message included in my statement from a different bank last month. To reduce paper and gain efficiencies, Z Bank informed me, the statement reconciliation page would no longer be included with my statement and canceled checks. If I wanted to continue to get the reconciliation page, I would have to call and specifically request it. (The fact that I don't e-bank will be the subject of another column.)

Now, objectively I knew that this move was primarily about Check 21, as well as trying to drive customers to e-banking. But as a consumer all I knew was that, even as the reconciliation page was missing, there were two pages included with the statement that were strictly marketing oriented, encouraging me to investigate car loans, bank cards and ... e-banking services. Why couldn't the bank eliminate those pages to save money?

Customers ... can't live with them, can't live without them.

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