Banks are beginning to recognize that high value customers, if they are to be kept, increasingly demand recognition of their special status. Though this may be irksome to those of us with little more than a mortgage, credit card, and checking account, the reality is that banks are no longer in a position to be complacent about high value customers. In order to lure other high value clients away from their competitors, banks are creating VIP experiences – and some of them are going all out. When considering creating a special experience for your most important clients, there are some key elements that you will need to incorporate.
The first is exclusivity. Banks need to clearly define and identify their VIPs. The reason for a VIP zone is to show clients they are special, and that they can have something that is not for everyone. The VIP zone should be located in a different area of the branch, away from noise and traffic. It should provide privacy and needs to clearly communicate that it is a unique, distinct experience. This can be denoted through different design elements that are not part of the “regular” branch experience, but that still remain true to the brand.
For example, CZ Bank’s VIP zone carries the color scheme of the main branch area, but with a greater emphasis on grey, black, and gold. In the main branch, walls are clean, bright white with red as the main accent color with hints of gold, and furniture is black. In the VIP zon,e white walls continue but are broken up by gold trim and accent walls with textured black and gold diagonal etching. The use of red is subtle while gold takes a stronger role. However you choose to denote your VIP zone as unique, a sense of exclusiveness is important.
The second thing you need to consider is how to make the experience sensory. This means textures, music, lighting, artwork, architectural elements, and refreshments all need to provide a heightened, even magical environment. Serving drip coffee in a mug may be a step up from standing in a queue to speak to a teller, but it will not be sufficient to create a truly special and unique VIP experience.
Banks like PKO in Poland are creating VIP designs that feel positively decadent. The dark colours and lighting feel mysterious and heighten the sense of exclusivity, while the strong diamond honeycomb texture and bold accent colours feel dynamic and exciting. The impact on the senses should be tangible, whether you take a dramatic approach like PKO, or a serene, modern approach like CZ Bank.
A critical element of the VIP zone will also be in choosing the right employees to deliver on customers’ expectations. Employees who handle VIP customers must have abilities well beyond the traditional teller or advisor. The emotional intelligence and wealth management expertise of VIP staff must be excellent if you are to impress a customer who may be considering private wealth management through a niche boutique firm. The ideal candidate will be passionate about personal wealth management, and has a refined personal manner but is also warm and intuitive. Importantly, banks will need to offer competitive compensation to ensure staff stick around, since VIP clients will be expecting long-term relationships.
Storytelling is something most bankers might think is beyond the scope of a financial institution. However, we think storytelling is relevant not only to the VIP zone, but to the whole banking experience. A few banks are doing a good job of this, for example Tangerine. Tangerine places the customer in the starring role and recognizes their hard work with a lot of passion in this great commercial. Although this is clearly not targeting a VIP experience, the customer-centric focus is key.
Banks are beginning to understand they need to take a more purposeful approach to communications and marketing, and VIP zones will need their own distinctive approach. Having a clear brand position will be critical, because although the VIP zone must be unique and different, it will still need to communicate the bank’s core brand values. The VIP zone needs to acknowledge the customer as playing a very particular role in the story, and all communications and marketing, including the digital experience, social media, and content marketing, need to thread this plot together. This goes back to understanding who your VIPs are, what they want and how they see themselves. Conducting new research to clarify your customer personas with an emphasis on defining the VIP persona may be necessary.
Many banks are somewhat complacent about targeting the VIP client because they don’t see bank accounts closing or investments moving. But as millennials begin to gain wealth the opportunity is to open new accounts and investments – and the bank with the best VIP experience will win the next generation of high value clients. Those who ignore this demographic do so at the risk of slowing growth as millennials begin to grow their businesses and plan for retirement.