Think for a moment about how much effort your team puts in to getting people to walk through the doors of your bank—or more likely in this day and age, to visit your website or download your mobile app. Consider the dollars spent on marketing campaigns, the hours spent at networking events, the manpower to staff community events. You're constantly working multiple angles to get your people and your brand ahead of the competition. Following all this effort, the last thing you want to see is an opportunity to forge a new relationship derailed by a poor customer experience.

As a society, we are stretched pretty thin. The demands of our families, homes, careers, and volunteer commitments have most of us running ragged. Can anyone blame us for seeking out the least painful way to get anything done? As companies like Amazon are showing us just how simple it can be to get what we want, our definition of a "good customer experience" is evolving. Thanks in large part to technology, we're now expecting to get things done swiftly in all areas of our life, including our finances.

The bottom line: It must be easy to do business with your bank. Points of friction will drive potential and existing customers away. Following are a few ways you can reduce friction:

1. Get a CRM, use your CRM, love your CRM.
Using a Customer Relationship Management system to log details of customer interactions saves customers from having to repeat their stories over and over, each time they call or come into your bank. Everyone at your institution can see who has been involved with a customer, what has been promised or delivered, and what needs to happen next. Plus, by building in tasks or workflows, it could help resolve customer issues in less time.

2. Improve your digital experience.
Is it easy for your customers to enroll for online or mobile banking? Is your mobile app intuitive? How quickly does it load? Does your website have relevant, useful information that is updated and easy to find? Are you offering all of the online or mobile functionality that your customers want? Assess your digital experience as it stands now, compare it against your competitors, and gauge customer expectations in your particular market area.

3. Scrutinize your policies and procedures.
From what I have seen, many community banks are operationally focused and risk-averse… and have the policies and procedures to prove it. By no means am I suggesting a revolt against best practices or compliance measures-we all know there's no getting around regulations-but consider revisiting your practices with a critical eye to see if you've been overdoing it. You may find areas where you can lessen the burden on a customer without assuming additional risk.

4. Empower your employees.
As central as technology has become to banking, there is still no replacement for good people. Giving your employees the tools they need to deliver the best experience is as important today as it has ever been. Those tools can include streamlined procedures, easy access to information, and the ability to make decisions. What would help your employees feel more empowered? Just ask them—they'll tell you.

Bonesteel is vice president – marketing at Citizens Bank, Mukwonago and a member of the 2019-2020 WBA Marketing Committee.