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December 2018

Evaluating Community Banks? See What Their Customers Have to Say

Are you considering taking your company’s banking business to a community bank? If so, you’ll need to weigh a number of


considerations about the bank before making that move. Don’t overlook one of the most important criteria. That of course is
how current customers view – and what they say about -- the quality of service they receive.

IStock-517491962Banks differ widely in their levels of personal service, from standpoints of both one-to-one personal attention and technological capabilities. No one is better equipped to discuss those service levels than their own business customers. Those customers can speak from personal experience about lending ease, attention to detail and business banker accessibility, experience and expertise, among other criteria.

Here are three best practices you can use to determine how current customers view a bank’s service.

  • Review customer testimonials. Many community banks have a testimonial page featuring customer comments about the bank and its services. For instance, on Leaders Bank’s Testimonials page, one customer lauds the bank for its “level of attention and personal service,” another for “always-personal contact.”
  • Network with current customers. It’s likely you’ll meet current customers of the bank at regular meetings of the local chamber of commerce or other business organizations. Don’t hesitate to ask these customers how well the bank measures up on various yardsticks, including loan availability, mobile banking services, knowledge of the local business environment and simple friendliness.
  • Call current customers. Many banks list some of their more prominent business customers on their websites. Call these customers, ask if they can spare a couple minutes and directly ask if their bank’s service meets their expectations.

In addition to other measuring sticks you use, the views of a bank’s current customer base offer essential insights. Seek these expert views early, to aid in your evaluation.

What methods do you find helpful in evaluating community banks? 

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Show Customers Appreciation with Warm, Friendly Holiday Traditions

One Ontario, Canada home supply products company conceived an inventive approach to remembering customers each holiday season. The company gives favored wholesaler and contractor customers business tools they know will not only be used, but will remind them of the gift giver. One season, the company provided an iPad featuring installed programs likely to help in the wholesalers’ and contractors’ businesses. The tool makes recipients’ day-to-day operations easier, while reinforcing their brand loyalty. 18-LB-563 stock photo

As this example shows, signaling appreciation to customers with friendly holiday traditions remains important. Just as key: Really thinking about how the gift or gesture can have lasting, post-holiday significance.  Consider some of the following ideas.

  • Holiday direct mail. Send a holiday-oriented direct mail piece to thank customers for their business.  It might be a discount off a purchase or offer redeemable in the New Year. It’s a holiday greeting, an advertisement and a business promotion, all in one.
  • One for the books. Each year, your customers work on growing their companies and make them more profitable. Every year, business books debut that provide excellent guidance in doing precisely that. Pick one from the best-reviewed titles, include a personal holiday message in the fly leaf and send to customers with your compliments.
  • Brand your gift. Customers love free items, and could even love them more when your brand’s logo is discreetly sewn onto the gift. A holiday gift of a warm item of clothing such as a cap or scarf is always appreciated. And each time your customers don the items, your logo will remind them of the giver.

Keep your theme consistent year after year, and you may find customers will look forward to your warm, friendly holiday tradition as much as they do egg nog, sleigh rides and tree trimming.

What is the most memorable holiday tradition with customers that you recall? 

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Sneak Preview of 2019 Commercial Loan Trends

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Next year, your company may need a commercial loan for a new facility or equipment, expanding inventory, or possibly a lucrative growth opportunity. You’ll have many options including large multi-national banks, as well as local banks with deep roots in the communities they serve. 

 

Before you make that important decision, keep in mind that in the most recent bank customer satisfaction survey, community banks gained the highest scores.  The following trends will also influence small and mid-size companies’ borrowing decisions in 2019.

·         Both mid-size and small companies have become increasingly disenchanted with multi-national banks’ impersonal nature. Result: They are seeking alternatives such as progressive community banks which place a strong emphasis on personal banking relationships. The banks’ decision makers live in the same community as their customers, and focus their attention on meeting local needs.

·         In this digital age, large multi-national banks’ substantial bricks-and-mortar presence carries less weight than it once did. Most community banks possess the mobile capabilities and digital banking prowess of their larger brethren. In addition, they provide a high level of responsiveness, transparency and local commitment.

·         While big and small banks have both grown their percentages of loan applications approved, look for small banks to approve a higher percentage of applicants in 2019. Big banks currently grant new business loans to about 25.3 percent of small business applicants; small banks approve about 49.1 percent. 

In today’s expanding business climate, you can expect proactive companies to take advantage of these trends to maximize growth in the upcoming year.

What business goals will drive your quest for commercial loans in 2019?

For related content, check these articles:

·         What’s the Best Debt-Equity Ratio for Your Company?

·         The Commercial Loan Term Sheet: An Important Step Before Getting a Loan

·         Debt Ratio’s Crucial Role in Landing Business Loans