Your Bank Doesn’t Know Your Borrower Unless It Knows These 5 Things

Understanding the mind of the customer

There are a handful of banks in this nation that really know their small business or commercial customer. They say they are about service and they actually walk the walk. They deliver superior service compared to the competition and they put the customer in the middle of everything they do. We interviewed five of these top performing banks and found out that they all have one thing in common – they tend to ask, discuss, understand and commit to their customer relationship management system at least three out of five of these questions. These questions should not only be part of your initial consultation, but should be part of your bank’s annual review with the customer. In this manner, you can not only update your CRM system, but more importantly, you can consistently review their progress and see if your bank’s capabilities have grown to better service your customer.


Here are five questions that if you know and internalize the answers will force your bank to deliver truly exceptional service.


What Are Their Dreams?


A customer’s dreams aren’t always about growth and revenue generation. Often times they can be about achieving more time with the family, achieving a certain status or creating a legacy. No matter what they are, seeing their big picture will help you reverse engineer how you and your bank can help get them there. While it seems simple, it is amazing how often this question is overlooked by bank relationship managers or business development officers.


What Are Their Goals/Objectives?


Where dreams are big, strategic items, goals and objectives are tactical and have a shorter time frame attached to them. Here, bank calling officers should understand what the customer’s objectives are for the next one to three years.


What Are Their Fears?


Fears are not only the answer to the question, “What keeps you up at night?,” but are the obstacles that could prevent your customer from achieving his or her dreams and goals. Keep in mind that these might be concrete fears such as the fear of an impending recession or they may be completely psychological like the inability to execute on their plan. It doesn’t really matter because both are real to them. These fears maybe little or big, but without knowing their fears you will not be able to know where their true pitfalls lay and you won’t know their pain points in which to position the bank’s good and services. 


What Are Their Pain Points?


Different than fears, pain points are those places of friction that cause problems. Discussing their fears first will often lead into a discussion about pain points, but like fears these pain points may be minor or major. Maybe it is their commute time or maybe it is a troublesome business partner, but knowing a person’s pain points places you and your bank in a position to deliver life-changing service. You might not be able to directly help them achieve their dreams, but chances are you can help remove one or two pain points.


What Is Their Corporate / Industry / Economic Outlook?


While chances are your bank currently discusses the customer’s annual budget or forecast it is rare that a bank takes the time to understand the underlying assumptions. In particular, knowing what their view of their household, company, industry and the economy is extremely helpful in order to help them mitigate some of their fears and pain points. By understanding their outlook, product selection, loan structuring and setting risk tolerance levels get much easier. Ask the question, have a discussion, give input, validate and record and you are well on your way to really knowing your customer.


What These Questions Also Do


While it is clear that garnering this information from your customers will help your bank better deliver superior service there is also another aspect of these questions that might be lost on many banks considering it is more nuanced.


These questions do three things for your bank. One, it puts your calling officers in the mindset that it is not about their goals, but about the customer’s. By asking about the customer’s goals, it puts the banker on the path of becoming a trusted financial advisor and helps create a partnership. It reminds the banker that part of their job is to help the customer grow and achieve their dreams. It underscores the fact that to be successful, the banker needs not only the emotional intelligence to help support a customer’s goals, but the practical tools to help them achieve it.


The second thing these questions help with is assist your customer to clearer thinking. Chances are they rarely get ask these questions which mean many will not have the answers readily available. Making these customers think through the answers forces them to figure out what is important and helps them prioritize what really is important and what they really are concerned about. Helping your customers come up with these answers is a huge service in itself and will likely result in a more successful client.


The third thing these questions do is align the bank objectives with the objectives of the customer. By knowing a customer’s answers, bankers now help the customer achieve them. The answers to these questions will drive other conversations and will lead to the positioning of product, services, networking and other assistance. It allows the bank to help the customer think about their business in new ways. The banker can now be on the lookout for ways to offer assistance which might mean passing along a simple piece of content via email or might mean helping that client with an introduction to their Congressional leadership.


If you are looking to truly delivering exceptional service and value, knowing this level of information about your customer will help your bank, your customers and your employees all operate at a higher level versus the competition.