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​Who Customers Turn to for Financial Advice

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Blog December 14, 2017 by Linda Marleny Dow
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​Who Customers Turn to for Financial Advice

If you had a problem with your mortgage, which of these experts would you trust for advice? A) A bank advisor; B) a television personality; C) your parents; D) the internet. The answer might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people would have trouble figuring out the solution.

We’ve talked before about the advice your banking customers are craving, but even improving the quality of your advice won’t do much good if your customers don’t trust your expertise.

Why Customers Don’t Trust Your Advice

There are a lot of reasons why most customers don’t trust banks – particularly big, traditional banks. From a hard line focus on driving profits to the negative PR generated by the Great Recession, financial institutions have earned a pretty dastardly reputation when it comes to serving the best interests of their customers.

Who Customers Do Trust

As part of our research into stealth attrition, we asked bank customers directly where they turn for financial advice. The number one result, by a wide margin, was to friends and family. That’s an understandable instinct; dealing with your personal finances can be stressful and complicated, and the marketplace is full of pseudo-experts with contradictory advice.

In response to uncertainty, customers turn to their loved ones. Unfortunately, unless their social networks are made up of expert financial advisors with a thorough understanding of their personal situation, those customers might not be getting the best guidance.

After consulting their closest confidants, consumers tend to turn to the internet for advice. And while big media outlets or trusted bloggers can be excellent sources of general information and guidance, they’re less well equipped for navigating the individual financial lives of consumers.

Becoming a Trusted Source of Advice

Ideally, banks would be the go-to source of financial advice. They have background knowledge on consumers’ personal finances and well-trained staff who can help make the most of your money. But without trust, it’s just not going to happen.

To build trust, banks have to prioritize the same things that people value in other relationships. That means that your financial institution needs to:

Stop selling and start helping

As a rule, salespeople can’t be trusted as a source of advice. Even without the aggressive sales goals that have led to widespread fraud in the financial services industry, customers can’t trust someone who’s motivated to serve the bank’s needs over their own. The first step to becoming a trusted source of financial advice is to divorce those two tainted aims.

Be open and upfront about changes

There’s something uniquely unsettling about discovering unexpected fees and charges on your bank statement. It feels a little like a betrayal, and it’s almost certain that a percentage of your customers feel that way every day. Be direct with your clients and let them know about changes that might impact their banking experience as well as the reasons for those changes – a little bit of honestly now can save your bottom line a lot of heartache later.

Communicate clearly

Similar to being direct when making changes, prioritizing clear communication is one small behavior that can make an enormous difference. Things like plain-language contracts and using graphics in lieu of spreadsheets will help your customers feel like they can understand and trust your bank and bank staff.

Stop obscuring the bigger picture

Consumers are smart – they can tell when you’re giving them a distorted view of their options. While it’s tempting to highlight investment options and savings vehicles that most benefit your bank, that’s the kind of behavior that destroys any hope of building trust.

Build genuine relationships

At the end of the day, people turn to their friends and family for advice because of the strength of their pre-existing relationships. That’s why it’s so important to encourage your staff to ask after customers’ families, make small talk about their weekend plans, and celebrate their triumphs and milestones. Going the extra mile to make clients feel valued will make a world of difference in developing trust.

Once your customers feel like they can trust you, here are three ways to ensure you’re giving the best possible advice:

  • Talk to customers on their level. The financial advice that I want is a lot different than the advice my parents want. Differences in tone, content, and style can impact who sees your advice and – more importantly – who learns from it.
  • Use data to personalize prompted insights. Many of the banks that pat themselves on the back for offering extensive advice are really just mimicking the millions of personal finance websites littering the internet. That means ignoring one of your most valuable assets: data. Information-driven, direct-to-consumer advice helps build relationships and position your bank as an authoritative, go-to source of financial counsel.
  • Connect your online and offline advice. Every point of contact you have with your customers should reinforce your bank’s value as a source of guidance and financial advice. Customers should be able to expect the same quality of insights no matter where, when, or how they connect with you.

Financial advice can be a deeply personal thing. That’s why consumers so often turn to their friends and family first, even when they’re not equipped to answer the tough questions. But with a few strategic changes, your bank can become a trusted source of advice that customers return to again and again.

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