Can Customers Change Their ATM Perceptions?

By Wilhide, Richard K. | ABA Banking Journal, May 1990 | Go to article overview

Can Customers Change Their ATM Perceptions?


Wilhide, Richard K., ABA Banking Journal


Changing customers' perceptions is viewed at times to be futile as alchemy-the old science of turning lead into gold. But while repositioning customer perceptions can be a long process, it is not necessarily impossible.

Our bank, for instance, began to integrate new electronic delivery systems within our branches in 1983, with a strong focus on automated teller machines. Today, Wilmington Trust has III ATMs-58 in-lobby ATMs installed in 35 branches, 31 through-the-wall ATMs, and 22 off-premise installations. Since their introduction, these machines have replaced about 30% of our tellers.

Two views. We believe ATMs fall into two categories-"complement" goods and "substitute" goods.

ATMs available 24 hours a day are complement goods-an extension of our service. Customers have no choice-the bank is closed and the ATM provides round-the-clock service. Complement goods are generally easy to "sell" and have wider acceptance.

In-lobby ATMS, we believe, are substitute goods-substitutes for live teller services. Some customers perceive live tellers as fast, efficient, personable, and-most important-no more expensive than ATM transactions. Substitute goods are generally more difficult to sell because you must change current consumer behavior patterns.

One of the things we have tried to do is position in-lobby ATMs as teller substitutes. We feel we are selling a self-service concept, and try to emphasize its benefits, one of which is that customers serve themselves faster, rather than waiting in a crowded teller line.

To make sure customers learn the benefits of ATMS, we stress demonstrations. When customers come to a branch to open checking accounts they receive an ATM card on the spot. They select their personal identification numbers and then we walk them over to the ATM to make their opening deposits through the machine.

The psychological message is that this is the routine we want them to follow. To further assure that the message is getting across, we even provide incentive compensation to customer service representatives to conduct these demonstrations.

We also address customer queries concerning funds availability and multiple account access with ATMS. We allow our customers six accounts on each card and strive for equal funds availability whether customers use ATMs or tellers.

We market our ATMs' services to current users and nonusers differently. With users, we typically try to broaden their usage. Nonusers, on the other hand, are targeted with one major program a year that utilizes direct mail, incentives, and demonstrations. We feel if we can get them to do even cash withdrawals, we've accomplished a great deal.

We also position the in-lobby ATM as a complement good, using marketing to overcome its natural place as a substitute good. We emphasize the benefits that ATMs provide-processing all accounts, time savings, and privacy. We originally named our in-lobby ATMs "Express Tellers," though we later changed the name to "Self-Service Banker" to eliminate the comparison. We found that some transactions may take longer at ATMs than at teller stations.

Self-serve account. When developing our ATM service in 1984, we realized we had a problem with checking accounts.

Our main challenge: How to make a profit-or at least avoid losing money-in serving low-balance customers. The latter include students and young people just starting their careers. We chose to combine our ATM marketing efforts with a new checking account. …

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