Local banks get creative to get new customers

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Can you get in touch with your bank at all hours? Not just an automated prerecorded voice that asks you to push several buttons, but an actual real, live – and local – person?

For Coastal Commerce Bank customers, that dream is an actual reality, and billboards across the area are splashed with bankers’ personal cell phone numbers in the bank’s latest campaign to attract new customers.

“People always say that banks keep banker’s hours,” said Chip Ourso, executive vice president and chief lending officer for Coastal Commerce Bank. “What are those, banker’s hours? We now have a banking officer on call 24/7. If you lose your debit card in the middle of the night, call us. There are businesses that are open 24/7, and so are we. We are at our customers’ service, and someone will always be around to take your call.

”While all local and national banks essentially offer the same services – loans, mortgages, saving and checking accounts and credit cards – personalized customer service is where local banks strive to be indispensable to their current customers and how they work to attract new customers.

“Most banks have the same products, but better customer service is what it boils down to,” Ourso said. “You should expect more from your bank, and customers deserve a lot from their bankers. We are committed to offering excellent customer service and to be the best we can be. We will return your calls, give cookies to your children or walk you to your car in the rain. We’ll meet you at your office, our office or even somewhere in between. We want to be available to customers.”

In addition to all the little things, the bank teller fits all of the big things – its variety of services. Coastal Commerce customers have options like business and student banking accounts and corporate cash management services. Kasasa checking, a national brand of interest earning checking accounts, is also available at the bank, and the service allows customers access to rewards like high rates, cash back, digital downloads and donations.

“We are not tied to a cookie-cutter loan structure,” Ourso said. “We do what makes sense to help our customers attain their goals. We are flexible and use common sense instead of strict underwriting for our loans. We have knowledge of the community that big banks don’t have.”

“Customers have a need, and we work to provide solutions,” he continued. “We are focused on having the best customer service in town, and people have actually left our bank and come back.”

In the 14 years since Coastal Commerce Bank opened, the business has accumulated $400 million in assets, and employs a total of 100 workers at its six locations in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.

“We are proud of our growth, and we have a steady customer base,” Ourso said. “We are good at what we do, and customers like our accessibility and responsiveness. We have accountability to our consumers and businesses.”

Like Coastal Commerce Bank, Synergy Bank also provides Kasasa checking for its customers, and the service has become one of the more popular draws for the bank.

“We’ve been offering Kasasa since 2009, and it attracts the customers,” said Synergy Bank president Jerry Ledet, Jr. “This service offers Kasasa Cash and iTunes downloads, and customers also get refunds on ATM fees and interest on bank deposits.”

The bank, which is owned by several local business leaders, also keeps up with the latest technology for its customers, providing services like e-statements, which are emailed versions of monthly bank statements, and reaching out to customers who do the majority of their banking online.

“We have our customers who are in here each week and our e-customers, but we are still in touch with them,” Ledet said. “We firmly believe in the community, and we give back to the community. We treat every customer with respect. If you walk into the bank and I don’t know your name, I will know it and remember it after you leave. “

According to Ledet, the bank’s consumer base has been growing for years, and much of the growth has been with loans and mortgages for consumer and commercial construction.

“We have a nice reputation of funding homes in the area, and our 30-year loans are very popular,” he said. “Our growth has been strong since our inception in 1999. In fact, we have moved from being the sixth largest bank in Terrebonne Parish in 2007 to the second largest in 2012.”

Over at South Louisiana Bank, attracting and retaining online customers by keeping up with latest technology is one of the many ways that the bank caters to its customers’ needs.

“We hope to keep in better contact with those who only come in to open the initial account,” said Steve Crispino, vice president of South Louisiana Bank. “That first meeting is the most important, and we need to keep in touch with these customers because we may never see them again. We are always working to evolve that technology platform for our customers. New technology is always posing a challenge, so we stay on top of it and advance with it as much as possible. We are tracking our website to see how many people visit so that we will know the needs of our online customers and better serve them.”

When it comes to attracting new customers, the bank also relies on the opposite end of the technology spectrum by cashing in on the good, old fashioned grapevine.

“Our current customers help us gain new customers by word of mouth,” Crispino said. “Customers want someone who cares and offers great service. We hear good things about our bank, and you don’t need much else when you have good word of mouth. We get to know our customers and then knowing what they need is easy.”

Like Coastal Commerce Bank and Synergy Bank, South Louisiana Bank also offers the same bells and whistles services like loans, mortgages, saving and checking accounts, safety deposit boxes and credit cards, and Crispino said that mortgage rates, which are at an all-time low, are also attracting customers.

“We don’t pull the bait and switch of not knowing your customers,” he said. “We take pride in knowing our customers and their needs, and we work to provide personal service and a good experience. We are accessible and people-friendly, and we really try to make you feel like more than just a customer.

“We have had a steady growth of our customer base and our financials continue to grow,” Crispino continued. “We are No. 1 in federal deposit market share in Terrebonne Parish, and we have been for the last three years.”

Chip Ourso, executive vice president and chief lending officer for Coastal Commerce Bank, stands in front of one of the bank’s new billboards. Providing banker’s cell phone numbers is one of the ways the bank is looking to attract and retain customers.