3 easy tips for banks to appeal to the over 55s

By Antonella Comes | 11 November 2019

This is part two of our blog series, taking a deep dive into the generations that banks are at risk of neglecting, such as Generation Z. Our second instalment focuses on the over 55s – an important group for banks to ensure they are keeping in mind, especially given the UK’s ageing population. Read on to find out how banks can better target and appeal to this demographic.

Who are the over 55s?

People aged 55-73 fall under the ‘Baby Boomers’ category (people born between 1946 and 1964), 74-91s are part of the ‘Silent Generation’ (1928 to 1945) and those aged 92 and over, the ’Greatest Generation’ (1901 to 1927). Older consumers of bank services aren’t all the same, but these generations tend to communicate with banks in a way that starkly contrasts with that of Gen Z and Millennial consumers, something banks must keep in mind to attract and retain the over 55s.

Young consumers are digital natives who  have never seen a world without the internet, PCs and other such modern conveniences. But for people growing up in the first half and middle of the twentieth century, visiting or calling a bank branch were the main communication channels available, and so may prefer to stick with what they know when banking today. Something supported by Age UK, which has stated most older people have a strong preference for in-branch banking.

  1. Maintain accessibility and choice of options

While they aren’t necessarily anti-technology, Ofcom’s Access and Inclusion Report does reveal that  25 percent of UK’s adult internet users are considered ‘narrow internet users’, with those aged 55 and over (32 percent for 55-64s, 49% for 65-74s and 55 percent for 75+) more likely to be classified under this demographic; with only 18 percent of over 75s owning a smartphone.  It also went on to report that half of non-users felt the internet ‘(isn’t) for people like them’, that one in five thinks using the internet is too complicated and 15 percent don’t use it due to the cost.

Keeping bank branches open, where possible, helps protect access for cash for people that don’t wish to use mobile or internet banking. Barclays’ announcement that it will keep branches open in areas where it will be the only bank branch in town for the next two years until 2021 is a good example of a retail bank keeping older generations in mind.

But it is about more than just bank branches. Considering how user interfaces and digital processes are designed to be more comfortable for older customers is an essential step, especially as new digital banking hubs are introduced on the high street. This can be as simple as presenting the customer with a list of their most commonly used functions, avoiding options and information overload, and superfluous digital marketing.

  1. Express empathy

Banks must do all they can to avoid alienating older generations and instead show care and empathy; training staff on what to bear in mind when communicating with the elderly is key to building trust. For example, for bank tellers servicing older customers that can’t hear as well as they used to should be willing to repeat questions, speak more slowly and explain banking products in more detail.

Similarly, when designing touchpoints, such as ATMs and bank branches, organisations could use larger text on-screen or on signage to make their messages easier to spot and read and create step-free access for those who may be mobility-impaired. As branches are re-organised to allow staff to be more consultative, colleagues can deliver specialised customer assistance for this group in-branch on assisted self-service devices.  Video banking could also play a useful role in serving older customers either in-branch or at home.

Making digital banking more empathetic for older customers could be technically challenging with older, fragmented systems.  However, ironically, how artificial intelligence and machine learning can automate and customise digital experiences on the fly will play a huge role in humanising banking services.

  1. Put yourself in the shoes of the customer

Banks should find out as much as they can about their audience and preferences, take time to understand how these consumers like to bank, and put a plan in place to ensure they are meeting their expectations. For example, Millennial bank managers might not think twice about scrapping distribution of paper statements, but those in the later stages of their life might see physical letters as an easier way of keeping track of their finances – something pointed out by Age UK.

All in all, banks need to ensure they are continually working to understand their older consumer preferences, improving the service they receive, and are maintaining their access to financial services so that they retain custom and reduce churn. Of course, the over 55s aren’t the only group banks should be considering but with people living longer, they are a vital portion of the customer base.

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