Magazine article American Banker

How to Get Closer to Millennial Customers; Citizens Bank Finds Mobile-Messaging System Increases Response Rate with Gen Y Applicants for Student Loans

Magazine article American Banker

How to Get Closer to Millennial Customers; Citizens Bank Finds Mobile-Messaging System Increases Response Rate with Gen Y Applicants for Student Loans

Article excerpt

Byline: Bryan Yurcan

Millennials don't talk on the on the phone and don't write or answer emails, according to myriad surveys.

So it's little surprise that Citizens Bank in Providence, R.I., was getting very low response rates when trying to communicate in those ways with its mostly millennial student loan applicants.

"What we learned is that they are not very engaged in these channels," said Mary Fiorille, head of the unsecured lending business at the $140 billion-asset bank. "It was very difficult to get them to provide us the information we needed" after they started a student loan application, she said. "So there were delays in application closings."

To address the problem, the bank tried a new mobile-messaging function. The technology, developed by a Philadelphia firm called Relay Network, captures a customer's mobile number when they fill out a loan application through the bank's mobile app or website.

It then sends messages from the bank to the customers' mobile phones, as a prompt to provide the bank with whatever further information it needs to complete the application. Customers and bank service reps also can communicate via the messaging service, known as Citizens Bank Wire.

"These customers, I think just like all millennials, respond to quick sound bites," Fiorille said. "So we had to tailor our communications for them."

The result has been a higher response rate from student loan customers who use Citizens Bank Wire, compared with those the bank primarily communicates with using phone and email. Loan completions are 10% higher and time to completion 40% lower for the Wireusers. (Though the service was created with millennials in mind, any Citizens customer can opt in for it.)

Millennial customers have grown accustomed to communicating with social messaging apps, such as Snapchat or Whatsapp, so it makes sense for banks to try to replicate that type of platform, said Peter Wannemacher, a senior analyst with Forrester Research. …

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