Account alerts are designed to quickly deliver important messages to bank customers and credit union members with the intention of helping them avoid situations like account fees and fraud. But is today's consumer taking full advantage of them?
Not really. According to a new report from Forrester Research, "Account Alerts' Real Value Eludes U.S. Banks," consumer use of account alerts has fallen steadily since 2007, and just 15% of online adults say they receive account alerts. Forrester researchers say credit unions and other financial institutions must be proactive in promoting account alerts because of the benefits they provide both business and end user.
"By clearly showing more customers how alerts can help them avoid late payment fees, overdraft penalties and other nuisance charges, e-business executives will boost not only sagging adoption numbers but also customer satisfaction," Forrester Research analyst Emmett Higdon said.
Financial institutions developed account alerts as a way to send information to customers without requiring them to log in to their online banking account. Customers and members often have more than 20 types of alerts to choose from, including security alerts, bill payment alerts and account fee alerts.
Messages can be delivered in an e-mail, text message or voice mail or even through a social networking site like Twitter. However, e-mail remains the most widely used form of message delivery, Forrester found, leaving plenty of room for advancement.
"The variety of ways customers can receive alerts has grown substantially beyond e-mail only," Higdon said. "Still, e-mail remains the most common delivery option."
A lack of communication can be blamed for low account alert adoption numbers-the report, based on consumer surveys, found many don't use the alerts because they don't know if their financial institution offers them or don't know what the alerts do or how to use them. Others say they don't need account alerts because they frequently check their bank accounts online.But consumers who do receive alerts recognize their benefits. Forrester found that customers who use the alerts feel they help them avoid fraud and unwanted account fees, as well as help focus their attention on the most important banking information.
"Where alerts bring value to customers and banks alike is in helping customers manage their accounts more effectively by reminding them of overdue actions, like bill payments, and suggesting other actions, like account transfers, as a means of avoiding fees or penalties," Higdon said.
How can financial institutions get the word out about these useful alerts and help raise consumer adoption rates? Forrester recommends launching an aggressive, targeted promotional plan. First, customers should know how the alerts benefit them.
"By demonstrating what each alert can do for a customer, banks are in effect showing what they can do for the customer," Higdon wrote.
Next, alert messages should include clear next step instructions, such as, "make a transfer to avoid an overdraft fee," and end users should be able to complete the action through the same channel in which the alert was received.
Furthermore, financial institutions should deliver each alert through a channel that best matches the goal of the alert, Forrester researchers said.
Additionally, financial institutions can attract more users to account alert features by offering fewer alert options instead of presenting an overwhelming menu of choices. And offering a specific combination of alerts can appeal to customers, too-Forrester recommends suggesting alert packages based on their individual accounts and service use.
And finally, financial institutions should market account alert services to customers and members who do not bank online. Once an offline customer begins receiving account alerts via e-mail or text message, he or she becomes a prospect for online or mobile banking, the report said.
The dip in U.S. consumer adoption of account alerts is a pity because alerts have been shown to help strengthen relationships, create cross-sell opportunities and raise customer satisfaction, Higdon concluded in his report. "To stem the decline in adoption and reap these benefits, e-business executives need to demonstrate to customers the value that alerts can provide."
Forrester Research's findings were based on the Cambridge, Mass., firm's North American Technographics Financial Services Online Benchmark Recontact Survey, an online survey of 4,001 U.S. online users ages 18 to 88 conducted in May 2010.