PNA: Your Missing Link to Identifying Customer Needs

The account opening process is a perfect time to identify new customer needs because:

  • Customers expect to spend time at the bank establishing their new account.
  • Customers expect to be asked about and are more open to sharing personal information when opening a new account.
  • Customers generally open new accounts in person, thus providing the best opportunity to identify their financial needs.

However, in a BAI study, retail executives openly admitted that many front-line staff lack the sales skills required to conduct credible conversations with new customers to identify their financial needs.

To help overcome that lack of front-line execution, banks need to develop a mechanism they can use to learn about their customers’ life cycle. I propose a personal needs assessment (PNA), a tool to gather valuable information that can build the bank/customer relationship. To understand its potential benefit in the onboarding process, one has to look at what banks are doing right now.

For instance, many banks send out mail pieces under a “Welcome to Our Bank” banner, usually a product-focused brochure. Some may not even bother with the welcome message and simply start cross-selling. As a result, customers get bombarded with irrelevant, non-customized offers.

These off-the-mark messages display a lack of knowledge about the customer—leaving the customer to infer that the bank’s real concern is generating sales rather than building a relationship. Research indicates this is one reason why new customers inevitably disregard the majority of a bank’s correspondence.

Simply sending generic offers driven by data or senior management, on a predetermined timeline, risks alienating the new customer for two important reasons:

  1. Lack of relevance. The customer is annoyed to receive what they consider mass solicitations—offers that don’t apply to them or meet their needs.
  2. Lack of timeliness. The customer wonders why they weren’t offered these products and services at the time they opened the account.

To get customers to stay longer, banks need to start sending timely, relevant offers. In order to achieve this, financial institutions can’t solely rely on their MCIF/CRM system to predict what their new customers “might” need next. They must find an effective way to identify their customers’ needs so they can offer the right product and service to each new customer.

Enter the PNA. This tool gives new customers an opportunity to share their upcoming personal needs with the bank. An effective personal needs assessment asks customers if and when they plan on experiencing specific life events in the next 12 months—such as graduating from college, becoming a parent, getting married, buying or selling a home. The response information allows banks to send relevant offers at the specific time (3, 6, 9 or 12 months) the customer has expressed a need for a bank’s product or service. No more random offers at random times.

This value-focused approach to onboarding facilitates a true needs-based relationship with customers. It makes new customers feel appreciated because they receive timely offers based on the needs they’ve shared with their bank. By utilizing a tool that helps the front-line staff identify a customer’s needs, banks show that they want to do more than simply sell customers products and services—they show they truly want and value the relationship.