By John Jaser
Confusion in bank messages to their e-banking customers continues to undermine confidence in a bank’s Internet channel, making it easier for competitors to pull customers away or worse, for cyber criminals to pilfer funds.
Let me present an example – the first three paragraphs of an email I received from email@example.com at the suspicious hour of 12:57 a.m.:
Since you’ve added a payee, you’re now ready to start making payments! Just enter an amount and a date, click a button, and your payment is ready to go. And with Online Bill Pay, many of your payments will reach payees even faster.
So why not get started today, and begin enjoying the freedom and convenience of Online Bill Pay – you may never write a check again!
If a forgotten user ID or password is stopping you from coming back, please contact us. We’ll get you back online fast.
Doesn’t that sound clear? I thought so, until I remembered that I hadn’t added a payee to this account in months and that the email arrived at 12:57 a.m. I began to wonder: does my bank know me, or did it merely send a generic email in the middle of the night to e-banking customers who haven’t paid bills online lately?
From a pure marketing perspective, this is trouble, since most e-bankers actually pay attention to their accounts online. They understand that frequent visits to their bank’s website enable them to spot unauthorized activity. As a result, e-bankers know when the bank hasn’t done its homework.
I began to wonder if this message actually came from my bank. After all, my bank is smarter than this. It should know that I haven’t added any payees. It shouldn’t send email in the middle of the night.
The email concluded with standard language about security followed by these equally standard instructions: “Please do not respond directly to this email message. If you have any questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Now I’m really confused. This email supposedly came from email@example.com. I am not supposed to respond directly to this address. But if I have something to say, the email tells me to contact the bank at firstname.lastname@example.org. Wow!
So, I ask again – is this a phishing email or is it simply inept marketing? Either way, the bank hasn’t gained a smidgeon more of my trust. If anything, I have a queasy feeling that quality is a lost art in banking and perhaps the cyber criminals have tried something new.
This is exactly where banks and bankers don’t want to be. After years of warning customers about cyber crime, we finally have customers who pay attention, ask questions, and verify answers. Messages like this – sloppy at best, criminal at their worst – undermine the trusted relationships that banks are trying to cultivate.
It’s not hard to prevent these snafus. A careful read by staff and a customer focus group would have uncovered the problems. By listening to these groups, the bank could have protected its reputation for quality service and security, and perhaps even enhanced it.
Unfortunately, this bank squandered a good opportunity with sloppy execution. Given today’s jumpy customers and ever present cyber criminals, the banking industry can ill afford such errors. Competitors as well as cyber criminals know how to disrupt the vital chain of trust between banks and their customers. Let’s not tip the scales in their favor. ■