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Banking Fee-Free: Yes, You Heard Me Right!

Topics: Customer Experience
Tagged: , , ,

I recently had an opportunity to switch my health savings account (HSA) to a different provider. My new account offers no minimum balance requirements, a free box of checks and accessibility online and via phone. Better yet, it has zero fees. My only reason for changing my account was—you guessed it—to avoid paying fees. My previous HSA charged a monthly fee if you did not maintain a minimum monthly balance. Not having fees was a welcome change in what seems to be an ever increasing era of bank fees. I should note the no fee account was a strategic move by the bank. They hold my company’s commercial accounts and they proposed a no fee HSA because they knew they would gain valuable and profitable new customers by cross-selling to our employee base. That’s a great sales strategy for acquiring prime customers in a highly competitive market.

To make the transition even easier the bank came on site at my company to complete the necessary paperwork to open the account. In terms of customer service the account change was very positive and seamless. I give this bank an “A” for the quality of the customer experience but saw the potential for more efficient, cost effective, secure processes so my account can remain free in the future. There must be sustainability when strategic decisions are made to waive fees.

Once the HSA opening process was complete, there were a couple of steps necessary to access my account online. I received an access code via mail that stated a password would be sent in a separate mailing for security purposes. The next day the second envelope containing my password came. My coworker received her envelopes on the same day because she doesn’t check her mailbox every day. After hearing that, it occurred to me this approach to security might not be all that secure. Perhaps I’m more sensitive to this because I was once a victim of mail fraud in a check washing scheme, but it did raise a question about the security of sensitive information sitting in the mailbox. Perhaps a combination of mail, email or text would be safer, not to mention more cost effective. For example, when I opened an ING account they deposited small sums into my checking account that I had to verify to ensure account opening security. No paper, no postage, no sitting in the mailbox, done.

Another mailing I received regarding my HSA opening was a customer satisfaction survey with a self addressed stamped envelope enclosed. The survey included a ratings scale for various interactions with the bank and a section for written comments. While I think it is a great idea to ask your customers for feedback, I could see an opportunity to save time and money while making their process more efficient. The bank knew I was signing up for online banking and I provided them with an email address during the account opening process. They could have sent the satisfaction survey via email and all of my comments and rankings would have been able to be easily populated into their system. I pictured the tedious task of somebody manually entering the hand written information from the mailed surveys one by one. That seems very inefficient and expensive when you add up the cost of the mailing and the employee’s time.

The next items to arrive were my free box of checks, debit card, debit card password and finally my first statement. That seemed like a lot of mail within a couple of weeks. Granted I won’t always be getting this volume of mail, but there could be ways to consolidate or eliminate some of it. For example, having an option for automatic enrollment in e-statements on the account opening form would have saved me one less step in the account opening process and one less mailing. Another option to improve the customer experience, while reducing the clutter, would be to consolidate everything into a welcome package. One mailing with everything I need to conduct my bank business.

With the increased incidence of banks charging new or higher fees to offset losses from recent regulatory changes (e.g. the CARD Act, Dodd-Frank, etc.) it’s refreshing to find some banks that are working hard to keep that from affecting their customers. To continue to offer free services, cost reduction in other ways will be critical. A study by the Pew Institute last year reported that a customer may be charged as many as 49 different fees for a checking account. Based on that, I’m thrilled that my new account is fee-free. I’d like to keep it that way.

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Karen Gordon

About Karen Gordon

Karen Gordon has worked in the marketing group at Zoot Enterprises for about 10 years and has more than 20 years of experience in management and public relations. While earning her master’s degree she learned the importance of promoting an organization’s image and creating a positive buzz about its offerings. In her role at Zoot, Karen leads the company’s public relations program. When she’s not chasing down technology reporters you can find her on the nearest tennis court chasing fuzzy, yellow balls. Follow Karen on LinkedIn, or Twitter @karenrgordon.

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