Use your website to give your check program an immediate lift, while enhancing the account holder experience and improving branch efficiency.
In search of untapped potential for its clients, Harland Clarke’s
e-commerce team performed a comparative analysis of the results from client check programs, drawing correlations between check program profitability and order channel mix (branch versus phone versus web). The team’s findings are detailed in a Harland Clarke white paper, Best Practices for Online Consumer Check Ordering. Information about obtaining a free copy appears on page 5.
This article provides highlights of that white paper and a summary of eight best practices discovered by the team that correlate with a more profitable check program. Most of these recommendations are very simple for your IT department to implement; consider forwarding them, or the white paper, to your web team.
A 2007 survey by Forrester Research revealed that 33 percent of checking account holders would
prefer to reorder checks online. Yet surprisingly, selling checks online is still a largely untapped opportunity. According to Matt Wier, vice president of e-commerce for Harland Clarke, the majority (70 to 84 percent) of all check orders originate in the branch. Up to 15 percent are placed by telephone, leaving only 8 to 15 percent for online orders.
The financial institution’s revenue potential becomes apparent when comparing the dollars generated by checks ordered online versus checks ordered in the branch. “On average a consumer spends $8 more per order when buying checks online,” says Wier. “And 75 percent of that goes directly to the financial institution’s bottom line.” (See chart on page 4.) Multiply this by the annual number of check orders processed through your branch versus online, and the lost revenue quickly adds up.
Harland Clarke’s research shows that half of account holders would prefer to choose checks with a design, affinity or cause. Yet because branch personnel have so many steps to perform in opening new accounts, they cannot afford to wait for account holders to browse through a catalog and make a selection. Instead, branch personnel often bypass a check catalog review, steering account holders instead to the least expensive or free check offering.
“That’s another opportunity missed,” says Wier. “This group of consumers is often willing to pay extra for check designs and accessories that appeal to them.”
Regional community banks and credit unions that encourage brick-and-mortar banking ought to consider ramping up their online check ordering capabilities. “We’re not saying don’t take time with new account holders,” says Bob Williams, a member of Harland Clarke’s e-commerce team. “Rather, use that time for building the relationship.” (See related articles on pages 8 and 13.) The fact is that a growing percentage of account holders are internet-savvy and find it more convenient to handle certain aspects of banking online, such as ordering checks.
Fortunately, there is a way to satisfy even the most enthusiastic and leisurely check shoppers and still give branch personnel the time to focus on selling more complex products, such as loans or investments, which require more involved one-to-one communication. “The solution is easy,” says Williams. “Take some or all of our eight recommendations, and watch your check ordering move online and your check program improve.”
Why do many clients have low percentages of web check ordering? Harland Clarke’s e-commerce team has found several patterns. For example, the check order page, if it is there at all, is often buried deep within the client’s website. Consequently, when consumers head to their computers to order checks, they often cannot find the page they need. The end result is a frustrated account holder or, worse, one who takes her business to direct check providers.
“Checks are one of the top things that account holders look for when they log on to their financial institution’s website,” says Williams. He worked with one client in Rhode Island that tracks keyword searches and found that “check ordering” was the top search phrase by account holders. “They expect to click on the order page quickly but, in reality, when they look for it, it’s often very hard to find.”
Yet financial institutions that go the extra mile to provide easy and secure 24x7 access to online check ordering are pleased with the outcome. “One of our goals was to increase our customer base without adding staff,” says Sherry Snelson, an employee-owner with the Missouri-based Phelps County Bank. “We found that self-service internet check ordering is not only a necessity in today’s world, but also an opportunity to be all things to all people.” Snelson notes that the percentage of customers using the bank’s website to order check products has more than doubled.
Score yourself on the following eight recommendations (see scorecard on opposite page). The maximum score is 20 points. Anything above 10 is good. Share the results with your IT department or website administrator, and then take the necessary steps to make your website “check friendly.”
Build a friendly jump page. Create a friendly, reassuring “jump page” or “transitional page” that will help consumers understand the check provider and the ordering process, advising the account holder that Harland Clarke is the preferred, secure check provider for your organization. Many online banking websites feature legal
disclaimers with negative-sounding wording that may leave
account holders wary of clicking. Also, consider including the routing number of your financial institution and information about how the account holder will be billed.
Score: 1 point for using a jump page. Add 1 extra point if it is friendly.
Enable “integrated” ordering from online banking and allow personalization and shipping changes. If you are not doing so, consider adding Harland Clarke’s integrated link to your online banking site. This will pre-authenticate your account holders, simplifying and further securing their order process. Once integrated ordering is in place, allow personalization and shipping changes. This resolves some of the main reasons that people do not self-fulfill their orders online.
Score: 2 points for integrating with Harland Clarke. Add 3 points for allowing address changes.
Link directly to authentication page. For direct links to Harland Clarke that require the consumer to log-in using routing and account numbers, link the account holder directly to the page that provides the log-in. Do not link them directly to home pages, which are other pages that do not provide a log-in form. Depending on your ordering system, use one of these pages:
www.checkreorderexpress.com (former Clarke American system)
www.checksconnect.com (former Harland system)
reorder.libertysite.com (former Liberty system)
Score: 1 point for sending account holder to authentication page.
Optimize site search. Offer a search capability and make sure “check ordering” keywords are included. A search for checkrelated keywords should result in relevant check-ordering search result choices. Alternately, use a quick-links section on your site.
Sample search field
Sample drop-down menu
These are keywords to include:
• order checks
• reorder checks
• personal checks
• business checks
• check ordering
Score: 3 points for having check ordering in search. Add 2 points for having a quick link.
Offer multiple links to check ordering. Create the ability to link to check ordering from both within and outside of online banking. Create links from multiple locations where an account holder may be thinking about or looking to order checks. Locations for these links include online statements and in your “contact us” and pages.
Score: 2 points for links both inside and outside of online banking.
Use text links vs. image links. Where possible, use text links instead of images or buttons. Text links are more intuitive to people who are quickly scanning a page.
Score: 1 point if your check ordering link is a text link versus a graphic or button.
List link, then phone. On reorder forms, boxtops, and other printed order directives, list the website address before the phone number.
Score: 2 points for listing a URL before phone numbers on printed order directives.
Link page placement.Use the top and leftside content areas of your website for menus and links, including a check-ordering link, instead of the middle, right side or bottom of the web page. The phrase “order checks” is more friendly than “reorder checks.”
Score: 2 points for a check-ordering link on the left side or top of the web page.
For more information on how to move check orders out of your branch and onto your website, request a copy of Harland Clarke’s free white paper titled Best Practices for Online Consumer Check Ordering. Contact your Harland Clarke account executive or write us at: harlandclarke.com/contactus.