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Subtle sells

How to throw the perfect bank customer appreciation event

UNconventional Wisdom is a periodic guest blog where the conventional wisdom is held up for fresh inspection, often with divergent recommendations. If you have some "UNconventional Wisdom" to share, email UNconventional Wisdom is a periodic guest blog where the conventional wisdom is held up for fresh inspection, often with divergent recommendations. If you have some "UNconventional Wisdom" to share, email [email protected]

Recently I spoke on the future of business at one of the best bank customer events I have ever attended. CTBC Bank ($2.3 billion, Calif.) put on a stellar show.

I’m going to break down the event’s elements to give you some ideas for your next customer “thank you” lunch. The goal is to create an event that is focused on the customer, but subtly highlights the achievements and capabilities of the bank.

Here is the checklist:

Objectives: While many banks hold events, few clearly state their objectives to the staff to make sure all customers are clear on the message points and all staff understands the reason for the event.

If thanking customers is the sole and true objective, then make sure you don’t mix prospects with clients and make sure the list is small enough to spend quality time. However, if the goal is to generate more business, then mixing current clients with high-value prospects may be appropriate.

In addition to thanking customers, objectives are, at a minimum, to showcase and amplify the bank’s brand.

A bank can never be hurt by making it an objective to make sure that all stakeholders understand the bank’s differentiating value proposition. While some banks may want to only offer thanks, other banks may have secondary objectives of introducing a new product, announcing a new strategy, or showcasing a new initiative. The clearer you can be, the higher probability of true success.

Invitations: “Save the date” should be sent four months prior to the event and invitations two months prior. A week before the event, a reminder is sent. This cadence has proven to be very effective.

Venue: CTBC chose the Ritz-Carlton, which is never a bad choice. Not only does the Ritz-Carlton staff do a world class job, but they are known for elegance and customer service—two attributes that are important to associate with the bank.

Whatever the venue, having it fit the personality of the bank (casual/fun, sophisticated, etc.), easy to get to/park and accessible to all bank staff is important. Hotels are always expensive, but other successful ideas are restaurants, community venues, country clubs, outdoors or at a venue that you want to highlight (charity venues, museums, new offices, etc.).

Greetings: While most every bank does this well, CTBC made sure the greeting of each customer was well rehearsed. Instead of just welcoming each attendee, bank staff was on hand to walk the customer to the table to get their name tag and then into the crowd to make sure they were engaged in conversation and felt welcomed.

Dignitaries: CTBC built the event around the schedule of city, state, and congressional officials. Elected officials viewed the event as a single place to talk to many successful business and high-net-worth leaders—while clients wanted access to the officials.

The two stakeholder types help drive each other’s attendance and increased interest. Having elected/appointed officials in attendance created an aura of power and prestige—two other strong attributes to have associated with your bank.

Press: The dignitaries also fueled press attendance. Noor Menai, the bank’s president and CEO, carved out time to talk to the press at the beginning of the event, so when the bulk of clients showed up they saw multiple cameras rolling and interviews being given. This bank executives the look of importance and desirability. After seeing CEO Menai talking with the dignitaries and the press, clients felt especially honored to carve out some private time with the CEO.

Photos: In era, if you don’t take a photo, it didn’t really happen.

CTBC was smart to have a separate photo area and a professional photographer on hand. Leveraging the dignitaries, clients loved getting their picture taken with them. Further, the act of taking clients to get their picture taken with the bank’s business development officers, executives and board brought everyone closer together; created a nice follow up item when you send them the photo; and was a good way to update the bank’s CRM system so they have updated photos of clients.

CRA: CTBC chose the venue to announce their past year’s community redevelopment efforts and their plans for the following year. Aside from being interesting to dignitaries and the press, the information helped all feel good and underscored the bank’s tag line: “We are Family.”

Charitable Donations: The bank appropriately chose the venue to highlight some of their charitable giving to include funding some educational programs for disadvantaged youth through the University of Southern California, as well as funding scholarships at the famous Julliard School.

The message was clear: The bank takes its community seriously and goes out of its way to give back.

Entertainment: The bank tied in its charitable giving adeptly by having moving performances by their scholarship recipients. Choosing entertainment that was unique and moving created positive emotion that further tied clients to the bank. Tying your event into a special event in the community such as a new exhibit opening or a speaker that is in town can help generate additional interest.

• Keynote: Speeches were kept short, but relevant. Giving your clients a positive and visionary view helped underscore the bank as a thought leader and provided value on the day.

Gifts: The bank gave away a beautiful crystal bowl from Tiffany’s with a thank-you note enclosed. The gift was not only appropriate, elegant, and thoughtful, but will serve as a reminder of the event.

Follow up: To maximize the business development potential of an event, banks must quickly and diligently follow-up.

CTBC sent a thank you and the pictures within 24 hours.

At another great customer appreciation event I recently attended, the bank held it at spa with a health-centered theme. The bank sent a box of health products that was also extremely effective.

In addition to the gift, all clients should receive a personal phone call from their business development officer to further move the client into an expanded relationship and leverage the event.

Ending at the beginning: Like any event, pre-planning is key so the event looks like it comes off effortlessly.

Execution of thousands of details requires a clear event vision, stated objectives, a good team, and lots of organization.

CTBC pulled off an extraordinary event which successfully served to thank clients, generate new business, magnify their brand, promote their initiatives, spread holiday cheer, and create goodwill for all.

By following CTBC’s lead, your bank can kick up its success at your next customer appreciation event.

Chris Nichols

Chris Nichols is chief strategy officer at CenterState Bank Central Florida, N.A., Winter Haven, Fla. He frequently contributes to "UNconventional Wisdom" and other parts of Nichols is a member of the Banking Exchange Editorial Advisory Board.

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