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Mobile banking 20 Mar 2019

Digital Engagement Matters: The Mobile App

Not long ago, banks that offered mobile apps were few and those that did essentially offered a convenient way for customers to check their account balance. Today, choosing a bank with no mobile app would be a non-starter for most customers.

The mobile app has solidified its place as part of the omnichannel banking experience, and banks are adding more functionality in an effort to attract customers to their service and in the process deepen loyalty and engagement.

For BBVA Compass, the journey of actively driving engagement in digital and promoting the mobile app began five years ago, right about the time Target, Home Depot and others were experiencing wide-ranging data breaches. Customers were nervous that their accounts might be impacted, so the bank’s Channels team created a campaign for branch employees to help customers set up alerts on their mobile devices.

“Results were good and customer feedback was positive,” said BBVA Compass Director of Relationship Model Discipline Cody Sparks. “But, it was essentially a test using that single functionality as a way to measure customer response and our branch team’s response. It was not a long lasting way to drive mobile engagement or change customer behavior when it came to transactions.”

With a positive response from the alerts test, the team began a second phase that focused on mobile deposit, an area with the largest volume of transactions in the branch.

To facilitate a shift to mobile deposit, the team created $1 demonstration checks that the branch team could use to show customers how easy it was to use mobile deposit. Later, this was turned this into a promotion called “Check It Out” in which customers used mobile to deposit checks with a face value of $0.01, with some checks containing a hidden bonus of $10, $100, $1,000. The catch? The only way to uncover the bonus was to use mobile deposit.

The team tracked the deposits manually and began to see positive results. “We began to move the needle on both alerts and mobile deposits, because those were the functionalities the branches knew and could talk to the customers about. Plus, it was relevant to what our customers needed,” Sparks said.

By this time, the bank’s mobile app had become robust, winning Javelin Strategy & Research’s Mobile Banking Leader in Functionality Award. But, because the training emphasis was around setting up alerts and mobile deposit, the team began to find there were misunderstandings about the app’s other functionalities, and overall engagement varied in the project and in the mobile app.

“Out of this, we created the Blue Maverick pilot, which at first didn’t use bankers,” Sparks said. “We hired people from a temp agency with no banking experience and showed them how to do everything on the mobile app. When training was complete, we put them in the branches and measured results.”

As it turns out, a technology facilitator with no banking experience or ability to access the bank’s systems, was a roadblock.

Sparks: …customers don’t differentiate between channels, it’s all just banking to them.

“Customers were intrigued, and their questions about mobile almost always led to other banking questions about other products, transactions or fees. But the customers lost interest when the facilitator needed to pass them to a banking expert. For us, this proved that customers don’t differentiate between channels, it’s all just banking to them. Most of all they want a one-stop shop, an expert that can do it all,” Sparks said.

Meantime, branch employees began to take an interest in what the facilitator was teaching customers, leading Spark’s team to turn the original Blue Maverick curriculum into branch training. The team began training branch employees by job family, one at a time, up to and including the Branch Retail Executives.

Sparks: We needed to help the branch staff understand that we were not training them out of a job, but transitioning them from a transaction specialist to technology and advice specialist.

“The results of the Blue Maverick training were just phenomenal – our branches have consistently outperformed their mobile demonstration goals,” he said. “We needed to help the branch staff understand that we were not training them out of a job, but transitioning them from a transaction specialist to technology and advice specialist. After that, they were all in, and excited about their new skill set.”

Now, says Sparks, engaging customers in mobile is completely integrated into the branch. All branch employees focus on opening and servicing customer accounts, while simultaneously teaching them the tools that will help them manage and control their finances.

Sparks: Although our app makes the tools available to our customers, our branch team makes these tools come to life.

“Branches are most often referred to as places where people come for advice for financial products like mortgages and investments, but I think we also need to recognize that branches are centers for expertise about financial strategies,” Sparks said. “And those strategies include how to transact in the 21st century and how our customers can use their own financial data to make better decisions. Although our app makes the tools available to our customers, our branch team makes these tools come to life.”

The effort is working, with an average of more than 40,000 demos of the bank’s mobile app conducted each month in 2018 and independent surveys that show the bank’s mobile app penetration to active customers as the highest in the US among all large-scale banks.


Click here to read how the Mobile team is leveraging the bank’s mobile engagement tool, BankerDemo, to drive digital engagement through the branch network.

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