Five Considerations for Stronger Digital Communications Adoption

Digital banking services and capabilities are increasingly one of the most important areas of investment for community banks.

Community bank customers appreciate the personal service they receive from their local bank but desire the technology capabilities offered at national banks. Community banks are challenged to deliver seamless, robust digital banking services in a cost-effective manner. These challenges create some compromised digital banking experiences, particularly around digital communications.

Community banks consistently have much lower adoption rates of digital statement compared to large national banks. Bank leaders often cite demographics as the leading factor in the lack of migration to digital communication, with many banks assuming that only younger, wealthier customers adopt digital banking solutions. In reality, adoption rates are fairly consistent across age, income and location. 

Instead, many regional and community bank customers do not adopt digital solutions because they do not trust their bank’s offerings. The network of third-party vendors a bank uses creates a patchwork of solutions that may not communicate effectively, resulting in a negative user experience. This friction results in abandonment, as customers decide to just continue accepting the traditional printed communications.

The good news is that this area can be fixed — but it requires community bankers to fully understand what is needed to create a well-designed digital communications experience.

Crafting A User Interface, Appearance
A customer’s experiences must be consistent across the bank. Banks thrive at managing a customer’s in-person interactions; its digital presence, online and mobile offerings should offer the same experience. When electronic statements on the digital platform look unsophisticated and lack consistency in design, it leaves a bad impression with the customer. The online site must be responsive and mobile-friendly, enabling the customer to bank on-the-go.

Fully Functional Entitlement Management
Passwords, authorizations and verifications can easily become one of the frustrating components of digital adoption for customers. Most often, customers are unaware that numerous third-party vendors are involved in making their digital experience a reality. When they change or update their settings, they expect these changes to occur across their account in real-time. Any delay or latency results in an inconsistent experience for the customer.

Centralizing Preferences, Settings
Bank customers encounter digital experiences that consist of digital banking preference settings in one place on the website or mobile app and settings for digital communications in another area. This can create confusion among customers. Since they may not be aware that the digital communications may be held by one vendor, and other account functions are held by others, it seems to make little sense why all settings are not centralized in one place. It is worth exploring the options to unite these components in one place, further eliminating potential friction.

Longer Retention Period
Communications archival is one of the most beneficial — yet overlooked advantages — for digital adoption. Customers may or may not refer to previous communications such as notices and statements regularly, but when they need them, they will appreciate the capability. Community banks do not often like to pay for the server space needed to store these past communications, but it is an area executive should consider when trying to increase digital adoption. Customers cite short retention periods as a reason for electing to continue to receive paper statements.

Innovative Notification Options
Most legacy digital communication integrations use email as the primary method of notifying customers. Today’s bank customer is inundated with emails from work, personal matters and retailers. They are also cautious about opening emails due to hackers often masking themselves as financial institutions in phishing and other fraud-related schemes. The best way to get around this is through real-time integrations between digital banking and digital communication systems, offering the use of SMS or push notifications when possible.

Achieving greater digital adoption is possible. The status quo not only leaves most banks spending more per customer to deliver documents than their large, national bank competitors, but it gives customers the impression that they cannot manage their digital experience effectively.

The good news for regional and community banks is that it is possible to improve on the efforts already in place to build a strong digital presence by choose vendors that are truly committed to the open banking concept. Once the ecosystem of vendors works together, community banks will be in a much better position to market and grow their digital adoption efforts.