Big banks have spent most of the past few years in trouble. They’ve been in trouble with their shareholders, with the government, and now they’re in a great deal of trouble thanks to their unhappy customers. The banking world has sustained a black eye through the recession and financial crisis that won’t disappear for quite some time; and rebuilding relationships of trust with their customer base is going to be an uphill battle.
During the course of the recession, banks seemed to determine that every customer was a potential liability rather than an asset. Every customer was someone who could potentially fail to make a payment on time or would withdraw their funds out of fear of a bank failure. As a result, banks stopped putting their customers first. They stopped being a source of financing, stopped being willing to negotiate with customers struggling to make payments, and stopped paying reasonable rates of interest on deposit products. Now that the worst of the storm is over, banks want to restore the confidence of their frustrated customers. Here’s how they’re going about it.
Feel-Good Advertising: During the Winter Olympics, financial institutions have been well represented during commercial breaks. The ads have been intended to make customers feel good and make them feel like their bank is almost a part of the family, there for them during the most important moments in their lives. The slogans suggest stability and strength after one of the most volatile and weak periods of time in the banking sector’s history. Although the ads have been positive and upbeat, spending on advertising from the nation’s biggest bank was only about half in 2009 of what it was in 2008. In other words, there’s a message to get out, but there’s not much budget to help spread the word.
Accentuating The Positive: The headlines on banks are still mostly negative and bank officials seem reluctant to contribute their opinions to those stories. Occasionally though, the news come out with a story about an increase in small business lending or some other positive update. In these brighter news stories, quotes from bank officials are easy to find. Banners in bank lobbies also promote what the bank is doing well in hopes that customers will forget about areas where big banks have fallen short. Banks are being extremely transparent in areas where they’re performing well after many complaints of a lack of transparency.
Downplaying The Negative: Bank executives are having to make very tough decisions right now. The best decision for the bank is not always the one that looks best to the scrutiny of the media or the public eye. Bank bonuses are a perfect example. There are smart and talented people high up in big banks that need to be retained. These people didn’t personally make decisions that led to the credit crisis but the thought of executives getting big bonuses after so many customers have suffered due to bank decisions seems unfair to customers. Banks are working to keep their names out of the headlines when it comes to negative news and are working hard to keep some decisions under the radar.