Despite all of the fancy customer portals and apps, email is still the unsung workhorse of financial services. It’s ubiquitous, alerting customers to everything from transactions and statements to password changes, updates to policies, and potential fraud. Email has been so broadly adopted and used by society at large that it’s often taken for granted. But if your financial services company depends on email to attract, cross-sell and up-sell, service, and retain customers, here are some things you should definitely know. Because email experiences vary — dramatically — based on what infrastructure and processes you’re using.

How to Win the Latency Game

Email latency is the relative time delay between when an email is sent and when it’s received. Often it takes just a few milliseconds before an email is sent and when it appears in the recipient’s inbox. But between point A and point B, many factors can contribute to increased latency.

First, processes within a company. Some organizations are used to creating batch lists of names and email messages and then uploading them via FTP to their service provider. This can take up to an hour. If it’s an important, time-sensitive alert, this process is unacceptable. Whether manual or automated, these upload processes involve several steps and are error-prone as well as slow. Check to make sure these processes are not being used for email in your company.

Second, technical latency can also seriously slow emails and degrade your customer’s experience. How quickly the customer receives your email is based on how fast your Internet Service Provider sends the email and the profile of that ISP created by other ISPs. Internet traffic is constantly changing. Sending too many emails too fast might trigger an alert by an ISP that delays the email speed or causes emails to bounce. New technologies can now solve these potential problems by monitoring traffic and alerts in real-time, so the fastest possible service can be achieved — instead of relying on chance and accident.

Ensuring Delivery

A welcome email to a new customer that bounces and shows up two days later in the customer’s inbox can cause the customer to question the institution’s service quality. Any email from a financial institution — but especially those confirming transactions or alerting customers to what might be questionable activity related to their accounts — must be received promptly.
Bounced email, due to overfull inboxes or other issues, is captured by older systems and placed into separate mailboxes that might be looked at once a day or even less frequently.

Newer solutions alert senders that a particular mailbox was full and didn’t accept your email within seconds. These newer email systems give you the option of sending the email to an alternate address or sending the original message through SMS. Make sure you’re using one of these newer solutions.

Understanding User Engagement

Once a customer email is received, what’s happening? Is it being opened and read? Opened and deleted? Not opened and deleted immediately? What hyperlinks within the message have been clicked? In what order? During what day and time and with what frequency?

Older email systems don’t provide this data. Newer ones do.

Knowing these and other characteristics of how customers interact with email can be extremely valuable. It can tell marketers what each customer is interested in. It can tell what times of day certain customers check their email so email systems can be programmed to send it to that customer at those times so it appears atop the inbox. This data also helps you build a customer profile that can be accessed throughout the financial institution — from corporate departments to branch offices — to better monetize and serve customers.

Email is ubiquitous in financial services, to both older institutions and new FinTechs. It isn’t going away any time soon. It’s time to look under the hood to make sure your customers are getting the quality email experience they deserve.