10 Banks, 10 Accounts is a 10-part series in which we sent one of our copywriters Riley on a mission to open a checking account at 10 different banks to find out how they make their customers feel, learn what they’re doing well and see what they’re doing poorly.
We’ve kept the banks anonymous to protect the integrity of the project—hopefully, you’ll see your institution in some of them. Hover or click on the bank names to learn more about them as you read. If this is your first time reading, start here to learn more about Riley and this project—10 Banks, 10 Accounts.
I honestly don’t think anyone has ever bragged about opening a bank account. The products and services banks offer aren’t ever end goals—they’re tools that allow (and help) the more important parts of life to happen. Clients want to get their banking handled so they can be on their way.
People talk about their bank account on two occasions:
- They’re overwhelmed—and I mean seriously, “did that really just happen?” overwhelmed, like actually-won-one-of-those-rigged-carnival-games overwhelmed.
- They’re underwhelmed—and that’s saying something, what with banking already being an act of drudgery and all.
But you have an opportunity, from the moment someone walks through your doors, to lay the groundwork for loyalty and brand advocacy. Good, thorough, intentional service is all it takes.
But what does that even look like? What do customers want? Why do fools fall in love?
The answer is complicated.
Settle in. Refresh your coffee. I’m about to tell you a bank fairy tale: a tale of two account openings.
I rolled into a Footprint Protector branch, located smack-dab in the cool downtown of a vibrant, up-and-coming city. Inside, it felt like a bank—in a good way—with real walls and offices and dark stone floors and big heavy wooden columns and a spiral staircase. This Footprint Protector branch wasn’t ritzy, per se, but it was nice and permanent-feeling.
As usual, I began by asking a teller about opening an account. She called an employee from the back to set me up. We sat down at a desk in the lobby specifically designed for these types of walk-ins and began the process.
There were no introductions, no queries about my financial situation, and no probing as to what I was looking for in a checking account.
The employee was perfectly pleasant. She wasn’t rude or terse, but she didn’t do any digging whatsoever. She didn’t even ask which of Footprint Protector’s seven (SEVEN, Y’ALL!) personal checking accounts I wanted. Several banks I visited didn’t mention their options, by the way.
After about 25 minutes, I walked out with a checking account, a few sample checks, and Footprint Protector’s online banking app installed on my phone.
“Did I just get flim-flammed?” I asked myself. I’m still not sure.
I hit Top 10 Megabank on a Monday morning, a big-city branch located on a street by the airport where everything looks crummy—especially the pink and black strip club across the street with a huge, anatomically correct chrome horse on top of it. This Top 10 Megabank building looked weathered and tired, and the interior was plain bizarre—it’s a total cube farm that was reminiscent of a sketchy cell phone repair shop.
I approached one of the tellers to ask about opening a checking account, and he said I’d be talking to “the new girl, um.” He turned to his coworker, “What’s her name, again?”
OK, I thought to myself, someone’s only been here a few days, that’s not too weird. A few minutes later, I find out the “new girl” had been there three months(!!), and that her name was “Amanda.”
Amanda turned out to be incredibly pleasant and professional. As she entered my information into her computer, she asked me about myself. She shared some things about herself, too, like taking her dad to Six Flags in St. Louis for Father’s Day and her previous job at Enterprise.
She did her due diligence, too. Amanda asked about my financial background and what my goals are. She walked me through the two checking accounts that fit my needs best. After we set up my new account, she went for both the credit card and savings account upsells, detailing the nifty and unique benefits of each. To me, these products feel geared toward people who are a little behind, financially, and are trying to take small steps toward improving their financial well-being.
That’s me. That’s exactly who I am.
The moral of the story
All my account-opening experiences fell into one of these two camps. In fact, it was an exact 50/50 split.
In Camp I, the experiences were brief and shallow, though usually not off-putting. Of course, there were some flubs, like the employee at Regional Creeper who had serious trouble working the software, or the employee at Explosive Growth who wrote down my personal info (INCLUDING MY SSN) on a scrap piece of paper. Largely, though, they were in-and-out experiences—which some customers may very well want. It’s not what I prefer, but that’s not why they rubbed me the wrong way.
The reason each of these banks made me uncomfortable is because it felt like their employees were making assumptions about me—and they don’t know nearly enough about me to make assumptions. So, I have to assume they treat everyone else like this. They gave me a vibe of, “Eh, you already know all this stuff, so here you go.” By this point, I did know all that stuff, but if it isn’t laid out for me, I’m unsure of what exactly I’m getting. The employees felt careless, and that doesn’t inspire confidence. I definitely didn’t feel like I’d been helped.
Banks in Camp II put their best front-facing employees in front-facing positions. And this isn’t a matter of personal preference. Employees in Camp II who served me ran the gamut of age, race, gender, etc. Some of them were extremely personable and articulate, while others were less self-certain, but genuine and knowledgeable of their bank’s products.
These employees felt like they were taking their jobs seriously. They made sure I knew what I was getting into by opening an account with them and made sure they knew what they were getting into by taking me on as a customer. It wasn’t just a matter of these employees being personable—their banks gave them a script of conversation topics they had to hit that did due diligence. Most importantly, they felt like true professionals worthy of my trust and Josh’s cash.
My father is the type of man who has a “guy” everywhere he goes. He has a guy at Best Buy, a guy at the AT&T store—hell, even a guy at the Pizza Hut in my small hometown. At each of these places, Dad’s guy (or gal) is the only person he’ll deal with. If Dad needs to buy a new phone, he drives 45 minutes past five other AT&T stores to his guy’s AT&T store. If he’s shopping for a new TV for the poker room, he calls his guy at Best Buy to make sure he’s on the sales floor that day.
You get the picture.
These guys are all very different—except that they all do their jobs thoroughly and they’re straight-shooters. They listen to my dad about his price range and needs, then advise him accordingly. They match him with the right product, not the newest or most expensive.
Of the 10 banks I visited, I left only three of them with the feeling that I’d found a “guy” for myself. Think about that: 10 banks, and just three people who made me feel like I could be open, honest, and candid with them—and that they would be the same with me.
There should have been more than that.
I wouldn’t hesitate to call “Camilla” at Regional Hotshot or “Amanda” at Top 10 Megabank or “Dennis” at Super Regional Bank and say, “Hey, I’d like to try some beginner investing. Would you tell me about it?” or “I want to start saving for my stepdaughter’s college fund; what should I do?”
If one of them called me and said, “Hey Riley, I think you should consider life insurance,” or, “This savings account would really help you knock those student loans down,” I’d be very receptive to their advice.
The best experiences offered a pairing of solid personnel and well-thought-out procedures. I’m not here to tell you what to do—I’m just getting my own financial footing—but if I were in your wingtips, I’d consider these questions:
- What is your bank doing to put personable employees in customer-facing positions?
- Does your bank’s customer onboarding policy demand that front-line staff perform due diligence when taking on new clients?
- In your own personal life, think about your own “guys.” Why have they earned your loyalty?
- In your bank or your branch, who are the rock-star employees whom customers seem to love? What can you learn from them and apply to a broader strategy?
You already know how much of a financial flop I was. But I’m also a potential customer. In 2016, I lived briefly (and catastrophically) in Tampa, Florida, during which time, I switched my banking to an institution with a heavy presence there. In the two years since I’ve moved back to Mississippi, I’ve continued to bank at my “Tampa” bank with surprising ease. Still, I’m open to switching my banking to any one of these 10 banks—if any of them can offer me enough value.
If you want to see a brief synopsis of my walk-in experiences, bank-by-bank, check The Full Report when it’s released in two weeks.
Next month, I’ll be talking about the mobile apps offered by our 10 banks.