Both the campus and the banking partner invest a great deal – in time and money – to prepare a financial services offering for cardholders. Contracts are negotiated, services planned, marketing developed, and logistics laid out. A key component of this planning is the account establishment process. How will those students that elect to use the service sign-up? A poorly devised or executed sign-up process is a major contributor to low participation rates and under utilized services.
Though there are actually many different account establishment points to consider, the two primary situations will be highlighted in the following overview. Those are (1) establishment of the account at the point of card issuance and (2) establishment at a later time.
We have all learned at some point or another that offering a service is far different from delivering a service. Campus card offices have offered things as diverse as prepaid cellular phone service, various insurance plans, credit cards, and loyalty schemes. Some are successful and actually move the point of delivery. Others simply languish as a checkbox on a form or a sign on a wall. When a service is simply misses the target, it can be chalked up to experience. But when students want the service but problems with the enrollment process sour the deal, it is a harder failure to accept.
Establishment at the point of card issuance
This can be the most critical point as it is often the best opportunity you will have to close the deal. The student is there in the card office and you have their full attention (if ever it can be had). During high volume carding times (e.g. orientation sessions, beginning of terms) staff from the bank should be on-site to market and enroll. The process should be rapid, polished, and complete.
Students should not have to visit a bank branch to complete the process, or you will lose a significant percentage of your partially-completed signups.
If lines get too long, students will simply ‘plan’ to come back later or signup via another means. Most will never do so. If they leave the office without an account, consider them lost.
Have a clear concise message for why this account is better than one they might already have or be able to get around town. In general, students want convenience, parents want cost-effectiveness. Make sure both your staff and the bank staff understand how to tailor this quick message to different audiences.
Establishment of the account at a later time
For many cardholders, signup at the point of card issuance is not possible. Some already have their cards, some will simply slip through your grasp at issuance, and others are too prudent and cautious to make a decision on site. How can they be enrolled at a later time?
Talk with your bank partner about online account enrollment, in-branch processes, and ongoing card office signup. These processes will vary depending on your specific needs and the capabilities of your partner.
Make sure you do your part to ensure that bank branch personnel understand the card program and partnership. Over the years, a common complaint among card program managers has been that the local branch agents were not kept aware of the program or its details. Students were not informed of the campus card option at the branch and either left un-served or were enrolled as bank customers but without the ties to the campus card. Creative program managers have sent “mystery shoppers” to the braches to see how well the staff sold the account. Others have conducted periodic training events or receptions at the card office to educate bank staff on the program from the campus point of view.
Though it sounds cliché, there is no substitute for planning, observation, and re-engineering. At all points in the enrollment chain, remember that proper planning and ongoing observation is key, but re-engineering will also be necessary. If part of the process is not working, be light on your feet. Adjust your tactics, marketing approaches, and enrollment procedures as you go and results should continue to improve.