It’s that time of year when consumers are, well consumed, with holiday planning and gift buying. According to annual retail estimates, holiday spending is expected to exceed $1.1 trillion through the end of the year — with $128 billion coming from online transactions.
According to a recent Bankrate survey, nearly half of all Americans have felt pressured to spend more on holiday gifts than they can comfortably afford. As a result, far too many families and individuals find themselves in a position to make another kind of transaction — with a payday lender or the local check-cashing store.
Granted, this provides a quick, temporary solution when funds become short. But this type of transactional event — which is all a payday lender or check cashing business provides — can be an awkward, costly experience that does nothing to help consumers build long-term financial stability.
Offer the gift of relationship
On the other hand, by utilizing the services and financial guidance that are part and parcel to an affiliation with a community bank or credit union, consumers can connect to professional financial advice, along with more affordable, less risky services that will set them on a more stable financial path. Something they definitely won’t get from a quick cash, transaction-based alternative.
All it takes is a little bit of awareness and a commitment to developing long-term account holder relationships.
Make a good first impression
Engaging with consumers when they make initial contact with your institution is a first step toward establishing a long-term connection. It’s important to learn if they are planning for some major life event that will require financial assistance, or if they are looking for advice or services that will provide more peace of mind when it comes to managing their finances better. Once you know their needs, be prepared to make a case right away for how you provide a variety of solutions that can help them reach their financial goals. If they leave without realizing what you have to offer, they will likely end up doing business somewhere else.
Know your stuff
Make sure your employees can accurately explain how all of your products and services address account holder needs, using terms they understand. Showing empathy to someone’s financial situation can go a long way in determining the quality of an account holder’s experience, and establish your institution as a trusted resource and financial partner.
Maintain fair and transparent fees
This time of year — perhaps more than any other — is proof that consumers are willing to pay for things that are important to them. But when they find themselves up against a wall due to an occasional shortfall or account oversight, the high fees and short payment terms of a pay day loan or quick-cash solution can result in a cycle of debt that may cost them more than the amount they needed initially to make ends meet.
On the other hand, a fully disclosed, reasonably priced overdraft program provides account holders with a long-term solution that they can access — with full knowledge of their costs and responsibilities — when they have a short-term financial need.
Offer more than transactional service
Effective account monitoring allows you to see when someone is experiencing financial difficulties. That’s when you can counsel account holders about the service alternatives that are available to help them manage their account more effectively and perhaps set aside funds in a savings account for future emergencies. Plus, keeping them informed about their account activity through automatically distributed communications shows you are committed to their long-term financial well-being.
Sometimes when people find themselves in financial situations that demand quick action, the solution they choose can unfortunately lead to more financial hardship, if they aren’t aware of less costly and less risky options. Don’t miss out on opportunities to set your institution apart from the transaction-only solutions that are available today. Not only can you create more long-term relationships, but you can also help your account holders enjoy a less stressful holiday season and send them into the New Year with more financial peace of mind.