Information that every marketer needs. (Customer Satisfaction).
MCIF databases. You must have marketing central information files or databases. These enable the creation of reports at both the household and product level so you can see who is "coming in the front door" and who is "leaving the back door." Trend lines should be constructed so you can see exactly who is coming and going, what they are buying and using, and how profitable they are. These reports are akin to the same-store sales reports that are ubiquitous in retailing. Derivatives of these reports might include key volumetric measures such as loan applications per day per branch, or new checking accounts per day per branch or other simple benchmarks. These reports help you to keep your finger on the pulse of your business and might even be called "Pulse Reports."
Client satisfaction surveys. All good retailers, hotels and restaurants conduct ongoing satisfaction surveys. You've seen these little comment cards everywhere. These are designed to give managers a sense of the "attitudinal pulse" of their customers and offer early warning signs of potential problems or greater opportunities. These are a must. You can get going quickly with yours by going to the ABA site www.clientsatisfaction.com and downloading a standard banking survey.
New-account surveys. Every time you get new clients, you should ask them to fill out a small survey designed to both profile the customer for future sales opportunities and to capture information on why they came to your bank. This valuable information will help you compute the return you are getting on you marketing expenditures, plus offer insights into what is working and what needs fixing in your marketing mix.
Closed-account surveys. The same logic as above, but here the focus is on why are clients leaving the bank. There are two levels here. Are they just closing an unnecessary account, or is this account part of a "plan" they have to move to another bank? The sooner you surface any bad news, the better. If you wait until your MCIF database shows that Mr. and Mm. Joseph Blow are no longer on the database, it is too late. Capturing closed-account information and getting it to your bankers for a quick query is time critical.
Feedback from frontline bankers. All of the information in the first four categories should be trended each month (or more frequently) so you have a sense of what is going on in your business. Who is coming, who is going, and generally speaking, why? With this in hand, you should plan to get perspective from your frontiine bankers. Having monthly coffee breaks (focus groups) with groups of them is fruitful. For example, if your closed-account survey suggests that people are leaving because of "poor service," you can ask the bankers what they think this means. Are the lines too long, are the hours too short, are people being rude, etc? Of course, keep in mind that these same people are often the service providers and may not be totally objective; but, their reaction to issues can, nevertheless, be valuable if for no other reason than to sensitize them to the issues.
Customer focus groups. These are the extraordinarily valuable periodic sessions you structure with customers (new and old), prospects, and others to get unbiased feedback about your bank, its products, advertising and other strategic initiatives. These need to be professionally moderated, generally, though many banks have set up "customer advisory panels" that can function in a similar way with a bank employee as the moderator,
Fellow employee feedback. A very good source of feedback and proscriptive input to marketers is the solicited input from your fellow executives. This can be done over lunch, during staff meetings or through formalized focus groups. These other executives have experience and viewpoints that can add luster to an already good idea, plus generate buy-in and enthusiasm for your programs.
Boards of directors. Like fellow executives, the members of your board of directors can be a good sounding board for marketing programs, especially those aimed at your business or "private banking" segments. Generating enthusiasm here can reap great rewards through the word-of-mouth network among these decision leaders.
Website. Mining data from your bank's website can yield a bounty of useful and timely insights, especially if you have an e-mail response device or an online satisfaction survey (again, see www.clientsatisfaction.com for one you can link to your site). In addition, you can install clickstream analyzers like 'WebTrends" to see where people are coming from, what pages they are viewing (or not viewing) and paths they are taking through your site.
Peer groups. Finally, as a senior strategy executive for your bank, you should join peer group exchanges, such as the ABA Marketing Network, to learn from your peers. Banking is still a unique industry in the sense that we have active trade groups of bankers willing to share ideas and help one another.
Of course, there are lots of other sources of information, such as the daily financial press, trade magazines like the one you are reading now, and other sources. But, as a marketing professional, you should systematize and manage your information in ways to give you quick and accurate intelligence on which to base sound decisions.
L Biff Motley is president of Motley & Associaes, New Orieans. He can be reached at: (504) 593-9672