Ultimate Guide to Financial eStatements
Much has been written about how to increase eStatement adoption among banking customers. The purpose of this article isn’t to tell you what you already know, but to explore the nuances of conventional wisdom for promoting eStatements and getting customers to enroll. With a little help from Aristotle’s rhetorical modes of persuasion, Professor Linda Flower’s tips for “closing the gap” with an audience, and a bestselling behavior economics book, we’ll explore the benefits of eStatement adoption for both customers and banks, as well as the pros and cons of different approaches. And if you’re still not sure how to proceed after reading, PrintMail is here to help with an array of innovative online services including an eStatement platform created exclusively for the needs and concerns of financial institutions and their customers.
What are eStatements and how do they work?
An eStatement is simply an account statement in electronic format instead of a paper mailing. eStatements may look the same as their paper siblings, or you can opt for a redesigned eStatement. eStatements allow banks and credit unions to follow regulations that require the distribution of a customer account statement, while saving money on printing and mailing costs. eStatements also provide a new platform for establishing your bank’s brand and sharing marketing messages with customers.
eStatements offer the same functionality to customers with added convenience. Instead of waiting for a mailing, customers are notified by email as soon as the eStatement comes out. They can review eStatements from any computer or mobile device, making it easy to check charges and reconcile your account from anywhere. And instead of filing paper statements, customers’ eStatements are automatically stored online and available for easy retrieval any time.
eStatements can be integrated into your customers’ current banking experience. Some customers prefer to receive both print and eStatements, or to print their electronic copies. Regardless of the format, the information is the same. When it comes to online and mobile banking, take advantage of a single sign-on interface, unlimited archive depth, and account reconciliation with sorting function to seamlessly merge eStatements with your online banking platform. You can also incorporate marketing messages and special promotions within PDF and HTML eStatements.
Benefits to the bank
eStatements provide one primary benefit to banks and credit unions: savings. With an average cost of $9 for every piece of mail sent to a customer, eStatement adoption can save your financial institution up to two-thirds of this cost. As a bank executive, you probably already know this–that’s why you’re here. We’ll talk about how to realize those savings in the next section, but first there are a few additional benefits to cover:
- Additional Marketing Opportunities: As mentioned, eStatements are a great platform to establish your brand footprint and advertise your special offers. It is also more cost-efficient to put marketing messages on eStatements instead of printing paper inserts or adding marketing to paper statements and envelopes.
- User Activity Reports: When you mail a paper statement, you don’t find out if the customer opened it or threw it immediately into the shredder. You may not even know if it was ever delivered. With eStatements, you can track and generate reports on user activity. You’ll also receive instant notification of undeliverable email addresses.
- Environmentally Conscious Ethos: Ethos is one of Aristotle’s three modes of persuasion. It’s an appeal based on the speaker’s character and credibility. When you frame your eStatement adoption campaign as part of your bank’s commitment to sustainability, you add to your ethos, which can help win customers’ trust and choice for other things, too, such as loans.
Strategies for enrolling customers into eStatements
When it comes to enrolling new and existing customers in your eStatement program, there are three primary choices. You may already know what your options are, but feel ambivalent about which one(s) to try. We’ll cover the pros and cons of each strategy to make it easier for you to decide.
First, a note about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rules for statement distribution: banks must provide monthly or similarly cyclical statements to customers whose accounts experience at least one Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) per month. However, the CFPB doesn’t specify that the default choice must be paper; customers simply must have a choice between paper and electronic statements.
1. The “best of both worlds” strategy: Make eStatements the default choice for new customers only. If they’d rather have paper delivery, they can opt in.
Why it works: According to Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, “People have a strong tendency to go along with the status quo or default option.” Therefore, the power of what they call inertia “can be harnessed…to produce better outcomes.” In our example, making eStatements the default option for all new customers has a positive effect on the environment and the bank’s bottom line, without causing harm to customers, who can always switch.
Cons: Some customers may be unhappy to begin receiving eStatements, although this is already the norm at some banks, particularly online ones. Bank employees can mention the eStatement default option when opening new accounts so that customers aren’t unpleasantly surprised.
2. The “lead them to water” approach: If making eStatements the default option seems too radical, even when limited to new customers, you can go with a voluntary opt-in strategy for everyone. Keep in mind that this approach will only be effective if you invest in marketing support and incentive programs to raise awareness among customers. Otherwise, “status quo bias” (another Nudge term) makes it unlikely that a significant number of customers will opt for eStatements on their own.
3. The Carrot or the Stick: If the previous strategy is a carrot, here are two options for using the stick instead:
Switch everyone’s delivery default to eStatements. This requires a lot of advance notice and customer service to avoid a backlash. Younger account holders might not even blink at the change, but older and less tech-savvy customers could get confused or upset. As with the first approach, customers would still have the option to make paper the default.
Link paper statement delivery to a monthly service fee. This provides a more stick-like incentive for enrolling in eStatement delivery. However, longtime customers who prefer paper statements may grumble at having to pay for something that was previously free.
Customer promotion strategies to increase adoption
When it comes to promoting eStatement adoption and getting customers to enroll, the best advice comes from English Professor Linda Flowers: To “close the gap” between you and your audience (or your customers, in this context), you must analyze your audience’s knowledge, attitudes, and needs. Therefore, the most effective eStatement promotional campaigns will focus on educating customers about eStatements, helping them develop a positive attitude toward eStatements, and reassuring them that everything they need in a statement–and more–can be fulfilled by your bank’s eStatement option. Here are the most popular approaches to eStatement promotion:
- The Environmental Angle: As mentioned earlier, making sustainability part of your bank’s brand can help you build a positive ethos in the minds of your customers and community. When you make “going green” a promotion strategy, you invite your customers to join you in creating a positive effect on the environment. Just keep in mind that environmental concerns are more motivating for some people and not at all motivating for others. Therefore, you can help customers develop a positive attitude toward “going green” by emphasizing the related benefits of reducing paper clutter at home and reducing the risk of identity theft. Some financial institutions have even offered to plant a tree for every person who signs up for eStatements. This may work best in a limited timeframe, such as a campaign during the month of April to coincide with Earth Day.
- Freebies: Everyone likes to get stuff for free. Some banks have had success promoting eStatement adoption by giving away a free checkbook and other small prizes to customers who make the switch. Some banks have even given cash prizes, though these can create administrative headaches later on with the requirement to issue 1099 forms.
- Education: Some customers might not even be aware of your bank’s eStatement option. Educate them on its existence by advertising eStatements on the back flap of printed statement envelopes, with in-branch posters, and through casual conversations with tellers. Sometimes “hey, did you know we offer eStatements?” is the best place to start.
- Needs: The next step in education is to inform customers of all the ways eStatements can meet and exceed their needs. For example, PrintMail finds that most people want their eStatements to look exactly like the printed version. You can reassure your customers that nothing will change except that eStatements arrive sooner, can be viewed on any device, and are automatically stored and archived for at-your-fingertips search and review later on. Imagine the ease of pressing a few buttons and pulling up any statement rather than sorting through an overstuffed file cabinet.
Whatever your customer-facing promotional strategy, make sure it overlaps with an internal campaign to educate your employees on the benefits of eStatements and get them ready to promote eStatement adoption among customers. You can even offer employee incentives for the number of customers they sign up for eStatements.
Want to know how real banks have increased their eStatement adoption rates? Here are three case study examples from PrintMail’s clients.
- A Midwestern bank that increased its adoption rate to 56.6 percent, well over the national average. They are now saving about $20K per month in printing and mailing costs.
- A Mid-Atlantic bank with an adoption rate of 52 percent and amazing monthly savings of $45.6K.
- A Great Lakes-area bank that saves $26.3K per month with a 46 percent eStatement adoption rate.