Taking care of business: How to deepen your business relationships with digital transformation

Strategy

Key insights:

  • Digital channels are a critical way to attract and retain business customers and ensure long-term success for your financial institution (FI).
  • You can adapt your people-first strategy to enable the success of digital channels for any type of business customer—from sole proprietors to corporations.
  • Obstacles to embracing digital transformation can be resolved with the right technology and vendor support.

It’s clear by now: community banks and credit unions that commit wholeheartedly to digital transformation will see better results. Buy-in from both leadership and branch staff is necessary to kick off any digital project, and your FI’s employees should feel confident weaving technology into both strategy and day-to-day operations.

Yet some financial institutions hesitate to embrace digital transformation, especially when it comes to business relationships. Employees voice concerns ranging from the strategic (“Do business customers even want digital banking?”) to the tactical (“What will this mean for my performance review?”) to the fundamental (“Will this change what kind of bank we are?”). And as digital tools become more essential in today’s competitive landscape, these questions will only become more difficult to ignore.

Despite concerns about the growth of digital banking, it’s clear that high-touch banking isn’t going anywhere soon. Nor should it. In fact, digital tools can make it easier for bank or credit union employees to deliver superior service to small business owners (SBOs), all while helping FIs compete more effectively.

Here’s how employees can leverage digital tools without losing what makes their FI special.

Why digital matters to business customers

Online account opening (OAO) isn’t just for consumers anymore. Businesses demand it, too. In fact, according to the 2021 Banking Impact Report, 57 percent of small business owners won’t use a bank or credit union without business account opening. 

By investing in a top-quality platform for business banking, your FI can open new business accounts up to 75 percent faster. For many community institutions, this is even better than their best-performing branch.

Further, OAO can actually make your brick-and-mortar branches more successful. Digital services expand the geographic range and “gravity” field of each branch, enabling you to reach more business customers with fewer resources. 

In addition to enhanced customer acquisition, digital solutions make it easier for branch employees to reach their goals. High-performing platforms offer automated decisioning, real-time core integration, and built-in engagement capabilities. These features reduce the need for time-consuming manual review and manual data entry. Less manual work means that branch staff have more time to focus on what matters most: building relationships with business customers and addressing more complex challenges as they arise.

In fact, as more and more rote processes move online, both consumers and businesses are actually seeking out human connection and personalized expertise when their needs can’t be met with the click of a button. This means that empathy remains a key skill for in-branch staff—and employees who aren’t bogged down with manual tasks can dedicate more time to high-impact personal service.

How to address cultural challenges

Despite the benefits of digital transformation, some FI executives and branch employees may be wary about embracing new technology. The high-touch approach to banking has historically been very successful for community banks and credit unions, allowing them to carve out an important place in their chosen markets—and digital channels are often seen as a disruption of this model. As community FIs pride themselves on person-to-person connection and exemplary service, they may view online banking as too impersonal or inflexible to become a key part of their culture.

However, digital solutions can actually serve as an important step in a high-touch model by ensuring that the onboarding process is quick, efficient, and even enjoyable. As the first point of contact for new relationships, business account opening helps your FI gain credibility and trust, setting the stage for a positive customer or member experience. Moreover, high-performing solutions allow greater visibility into the application process, allowing a greater degree of insight and personalization.

Navigating attribution concerns

It’s true that attribution of new digital accounts can be a challenge, as these accounts are extraneous to your FI’s brick-and-mortar branch network. However, there are several simple and fair ways to attribute digital accounts and offer branch employees the credit they deserve. For instance:

  • You can attribute digital accounts to your FI’s headquarters
  • Digital accounts can be attributed to the nearest branch
  • Digital applicants can receive a promo code that links them to a particular branch or staff member
  • Your FI could establish a separate digital branch to attribute digitally originated accounts

Though there may be some hurdles to overcome, digital channels should ultimately make things easier for both business customers and branch employees. When staff members are freed from time-consuming manual tasks, they can focus on high-impact work like fostering relationships with new and existing customers.

Fitting digital solutions into your mission

Community banks and credit unions succeed by making business customers happy, and the right tools make it easier to execute on that mission. Contrary to some common misconceptions, digital channels actually empower your FI to continue with a high-touch approach to banking that prioritizes personalized service, clear communication, and understanding local needs.

With MANTL, opening an account online is simple, straightforward, and convenient—even for business customers. It’s the best of both worlds: a digital solution that drives real, measurable outcomes for your FI, but isn’t burdensome for staff to understand and implement. MANTL empowers your FI to deliver the experience your business customers want—no matter the channel.

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