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Promoting Online Banking

We will be launching online banking in about 60 days. I would appreciate any ideas you might have for making our customers aware of it, promoting it outside the bank, getting people to try it.

Answer by D. Trent Fleming
Employee education is the first step. Take the time to educate your employees about the Internet in general, and your specific Internet Banking product. Insist that all employees use the product. Have meetings with your key corporate accounts to demo and explain the product, encourage some of them to become beta testers, as well. Promotion largely consists of making your customers aware. Direct mail is preferred over statements, since so many customers don't open their statements on a regular basis.


Answer by Kate Ogle
If you are going to be launching online banking, the #1 rule is to make it easy for everyone to get on. At our bank, the day we turned it on 80% of our customers could get on because we made it possible for them to use their ATM card number as their ID and then they used their PIN as their password. In that case, we didn't have people "applying" to use our online banking because they already had access set up for them with their ATM card information.

For those who do not have ATM cards, we had a formal application process. The Web site explained how to get access and provided a form for the non-cardholders to print out, sign and send back in. We then provided an access number and PIN and an EFT disclosure to them.

At our bank, we decided to make it very formal, so we bought blank business cards and, using Microsoft Word, we created very professional looking cards to issue to these customers that contained their new access number. That way, we could print them up one at a time. The PIN is as designated by the customer on the application form and it does not appear on the card furnished to the customer.

Rule #2 is to make it available to everybody, especially the customer that has a lot of insufficients and calls the bank a lot. This is exactly the type of customer you want to have using online banking. Just because the customer could not qualify for an ATM card does not mean you should not grant them online banking privileges. They will be in a position to better manage their account if they can access it at any time over the Internet and they will not be tying up your bookkeeping personnel on the telephone as much if they can answer their own questions and take care of transfers.

As far as advertising goes, my thoughts are that in today's environment your customers already are waiting for online banking, so your advertising can be as simple as an ad in the newspaper, a notice on your Web page that online banking will be up on a certain day, or a statement stuffer. Online banking is everything. If you build this, they will come.

Two years ago, when we launched our online banking, we did billboards and an extensive series of ads to let the public know. We were one of the first in our area. Now, customers are just waiting for it, so lesser methods should be sufficient.

As far as getting your customers to use, to introduce them and make them not afraid to try it, you can set up a computer in your lobby that is connected to the Internet and have someone ask them, when they come in, if they are using online banking. If they aren't, and would like to try it, you can explain that they don't even have to have their own computer. They can access their online banking account from any computer they have access to that is connected to the Internet. Then have someone walk them through the process.

At our bank, we made the decision to let all of our staff have access to the Internet within the bank, from our delivery person to our drive-in tellers. That means that any employee of the bank can answer questions about online banking and can turn their screen around and help the customer to whatever questions or problems they might be having.

If you choose to have one person as the designated person who knows all about online banking, your customers are going to get stacked up if the person is unavailable or gets too many inquiries. If your customer is having problems with online banking, they need quick answers. At our bank, whoever answers the phone can say, "Sure. I can help you. Let's walk through it right now." It's a real joy to walk around the bank and see all of our employees armed with this knowledge and power and they feel really good about it.

The next thing you need to do is educate your staff about how to answer different questions. There are several different levels of online banking. The first level is where the customer has access to their statement, their balances, transfer funds between their accounts, change their addresses, stop payments, and send encrypted email. That's usually the very first package of online banking. The second version of online banking has bill pay and opens it up where they could transfer funds between different banks and make wire transfers. The third level would be open to the commercial customer where they could have a whole cash management package. I'm just talking today about the first level. But even in the first level of online banking, the entire staff has to be educated to the fact that if you are going to allow stop payments, change of addresses and transfers, you should treat it as if the customer has walked right into the bank and made their request that way. Especially the stop payments. They should be checked every hour. And if your bank closes at 5:00, you should have someone check stop payment requests at 5:05 every night to make sure you don't miss one. When the customer sends in such a request through an encrypted email within your online banking system, they expect it to be received and promptly acted on.

You need to have someone check your online banking system every evening to see if it's up, it should be checked several times every Saturday and Sunday, and several times on every holiday. And make sure that the person checking it has access to your provider, so they will be able to react to any downtime immediately, 24 hours a day.


Answer by Barney Lehmbeck, BOL Guru
Advertising efforts should be directed at the Generation X market and should attempt to stimulate positive word of mouth within and among other market segments. One of the institutions that I worked with used media that was aimed at this market (such as a PC user group publication) and used giveaway items such as a beanie with a propeller on top and a pocket protector. This market found these items a true novelty and signed up not only for the product, but also the giveaway items.


First published on 2/5/01
Copyright, 2001,

First published on 02/05/2001

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