The ABA Marketing and Retail Banking Conference is coming up next week, and we’ve begun to distill the key themes and issues that our clients have been discussing with us over the past year. The one topic that stands out above the rest, and will continue to stand the test of time, is customer experience. With market disruption a key topic that will be discussed at the show, the question becomes how does brand experience play a role in new market entrants, unexpected competition, regulatory changes, universal bankers and ATMs, and the ever-increasing role of branch design?

Brand experience has a big impact on a customer’s perception of your brand, as well as the advocacy that its users have for it. Unfortunately, it is also an area that is traditionally outside of an organization’s control. To combat this lack of ownership, companies have begun to shift their organizational structure to create cross-functional teams. This is done to ensure that all departments of the organization (i.e., accounting, operations, marketing, sales) function through the lens of brand, rather than brand being a stand-alone business unit or just a sub-unit of marketing.

Whether it is a small change in your invoicing process, the greeting process of your tellers, or even your phone system, your customers will change their view of your brand. Every single customer touch-point affects the way consumers interact with your brand, so it is imperative to optimize each interaction. Tailor the design of your branches to make it easy and attractive for your customers. Train your bankers to be helpful and informative across each of the products and services you offer.

With large, and somewhat unorthodox competitors like Walmart trying to take wallet share away from regional banks, there is worry that smaller banks won’t be able to compete on price and interest rates. However, this actually presents an opportunity for a retail bank brand to positively differentiate itself. Such distinction can be accomplished using accessibility and community-based knowledge as an advantage. How? It’s a given that larger, national banks can’t compete on personal communications and customer service: by training employees on how to interact and engage customers a local bank can surely capture additional market share. Many of the larger banks try to employ this strategy, but don’t have the resources to really get to know their customers, like a smaller community or even a super-regional bank. Umpqua Bank uses its regional branches to enhance its customer experience by giving customers a chance to take a coffee break or check their email while banking. This is a great strategy that enhances the customer experience, as it gives their bank a personal feel for its customers. It also shows that it truly understands its customer base, and addresses their needs outside of just banking.

I’m confident you will hear many speakers address customer and brand experience at the conference next week, or any other banking conferences you may attend this year. But, it’s not enough to talk about it. You need to live and breathe it. Brand experience should be the filter for each business decision and strategy you implement. It’s important that you put processes in place to maximize these efforts and make it known to your customers that it is top of mind. A comprehensive brand and customer experience approach will outlast new market players, new government regulations, and put your bank on the forefront of the banking industry.

We hope to see you next week at the ABA Marketing and Retail Conference in Austin, Texas.

Josh Berndt is Director of Brand Development at Monigle. 

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