How ING DIRECT takes the brick and mortar out of banking

“I think my favourite part of my job is the ability to interact directly with clients and consumers through social media,” says Mark Nicholson, head of digital and interactive at ING DIRECT. “We’re then able to take those insights, immediately apply them, and have a direct feedback loop to see if the changes are positively received. That’s really cool!”

Seven tips for online banking success

1. Understand the challenges

People don’t really want to talk about money. And when you’re a bank, that makes a meaningful dialogue pretty difficult. Mark Nicholson, head of digital and interactive at ING DIRECT, says that making financial conversations okay is crucial to a successful banking relationship. “One of our core mandates is to actually get people talking about money and the challenges around it,” he says. “That way, people can make smarter decisions about where they invest their money and how to use their money.” The social-media team plays a large role in starting that dialogue and engaging customers—both potential and existing—to become active participants in the discussion.”

2. Know your marketplace

Nicholson acknowledges that not everyone is ready for what ING DIRECT offers. “We realize there are people who like brick and mortar, and whose needs make sense for banking in a branch,” he says. Instead of marketing to everyone, it’s more efficient to target your message to people who see the world the same way you do. “Much of what we celebrate as a society now is around self-serve, and we think we can deliver a great customer experience to folks who probably haven’t been in a branch in years and who are looking for better value for their money,” Nicholson says.

3. Establish the right foundation

Creating the perfect mix of expertise across the marketing group allows ING DIRECT to better connect with customers. “Our team consists of three pillars,” Nicholson says. “We have a social-media team, a web-development and online-marketing team, and then we have a mobile team.” Each subgroup focuses on how its discipline supports the customer life cycle, from catching the attention of potential consumers to delivering an outstanding online banking experience to existing customers. These teams structure their individual activities along the marketing department’s wider objectives, which then ladder up to support ING DIRECT’s overall corporate strategies.

4. Provide the perfect tools

ING DIRECT’s customers expect an outstanding online experience, and the company’s mobile team takes that requirement seriously. “Mobile obviously plays a big role for existing customers, and that’s where we’re looking to really make inroads as we move forward,” Nicholson says. A strong and differentiated mobility platform gives ING DIRECT the ability to deliver banking in a way that its brick-and-mortar competitors can’t. “We think there’s a big opportunity there, in terms of ensuring people are connected with their money,” says Nicholson. Through these mobile tools, customers will be able to access their accounts and understand what their financial picture looks like—anytime, anywhere.

5. Create awareness

When you’re leading the crowd instead of following, you’re going to need to educate people about how and why you’re different. The social-media team at ING DIRECT spearheads those efforts. “They help to create brand awareness and really to have an ongoing dialogue with people,” Nicholson says. “That dialogue is pertinent to people who don’t yet bank with us, as well as those who do.” He adds that there may be barriers that need to broken along the way, but “the focus is on educating people about money matters, in the hopes they’ll learn more about ING DIRECT.”

6. Support your customers

The lack of face-to-face support could concern potential customers, so ING DIRECT made customer service mission critical. “There are folks here 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” Nicholson says. Telephone support is popular, but it’s just one of several channels available to customers. “We have a team actively listening on Twitter and Facebook, and we’re always looking to expand our platforms,” Nicholson says. Because its strong service mandate empowers so many different types of support, ING DIRECT is able to offer customers a one-and-done approach to service. “If someone has a problem, a team here is ready to resolve it,” Nicholson says.

7. Keep looking forward

The folks at ING DIRECT know that innovation doesn’t come from the status quo, and Nicholson says they’re always looking for new ways to offer customers great service and outstanding value. “What we’re seeing is people becoming more invested in their money, and taking more control of their financial lives,” he says. With easy-to-understand products and a user-friendly banking interface, ING DIRECT has identified opportunities to give customers something that traditional financial institutions don’t. “As technology progresses and as consumers become more involved in their own finances,” Nicholson says, “I think we’ll continue to see growth in the direct-banking model.”