Does poor communication mean banks are out of touch with their customers?

It's no secret that the financial services industry is one of the most heavily regulated around, with countless policies, procedures, guidelines, rules and the like dictating how business is done. But do all of those instructions have to trickle down to customers as well?

This was the argument put forth by Irene Etzkorn, chief clarity officer at Siegelvision, in a post for The Financial Brand. She wrote that banks today are too clouded by policies and procedures, all of which have a negative impact on consumers. She argued that if banks truly want to "put people first," then they'd have to figure out what customers really want, and streamline communication in the process.

Here's how that may be possible:

Is there too much information?
The fist issue raised by Etzkorn is the sheer volume of information shared with customers. In her mind, there really can be such a thing as too much information. 

"A wealth of information could actually confuse customers."

For example, your bank may share bank balances, statement balances and available balances to customers at the same time. While not bad information to have, per se, Etzkorn feels that the average person won't know - or care - about this specific data. Instead, they may feel like they are overwhelmed and confused, or worse, believe that their bank is hiding something among all the fancy titles. A better option could be to have that data available to those who ask, but only share the available balance, since this is what matters most to consumers in the moment. 

Another problem many banks have outside of oversharing is confusing rules and policies. Etzkorn cited the example of bank hours. Most banks consider Monday through Friday business days, even though they are open on Saturday too. Banks also have different cutoff times for certain deposits, such as online or in-person. There could be as many as three cutoff times, depending on how the transaction is made.

This specific policy example is just one that illustrates the added confusion that can affect consumers. For many people, there is just too much going on, too many numbers and rules to remember, and all that can actually hamper customer relations.

How can you make improvements?
Overloading customers with so much information that they're confused about your business is never a good idea. This problem traces back to communication. Your bank should streamline its policies and procedures, then work on an effective way to share those guidelines with consumers. 

To help make that happen, here are three tips for better bank-customer communication:

"Employees can simplify the communication process."

1. Work with employees
Your customer-facing employees can do a lot to improve communication. When sharing any valuable data, policies or procedures, make sure each worker knows how to communicate. That includes simplifying the message to speak to a general audience, all while being as specific as possible. It can be a tough line to toe, but it is possible.

2. Get some feedback
Part of the problem noted by Etzkorn was that banks think they know what consumers want, when they really don't. Before you make assumptions with your financial institution, try to get out there and actually talk to customers. Create an informal poll to go over customer service, bank products and other important details. Simply put, just ask them what they think of your bank. 

3. Go into detail
Finally, you should make sure your communications are as detailed as possible. Don't allude to policies and procedures behind the scenes - actually talk about what they are, and how they affect customers. If there are any complaints, problems or questions, do you best to answer in full. This will position your bank as more open to communication, and help clear up any issues your customers may have.