ING Direct’s Emotional Connection With Customers

I have believed for some time now that financial services firms had to earn customer loyalty by making emotional connections (just like we do with our own personal relationships). In a Forrester report I wrote in September 2004, I said:

To earn the loyalty of customers, banks must do more than offer the best rates and fees — they need to connect emotionally with customers…by demonstrating customer advocacy in service and sales interactions.”

Since then, I’ve encountered many skeptical financial services execs. They don’t believe that a checking account can engender the same kind of emotional involvement that an iPod, a car, or clothing can.

They might be wrong. This morning, I came across this post from Justin, a 24-year old blogger from Asheville, NC:

I can’t believe it! I am so stoked it’s not even funny. It’s finally here!

I have been a loyal ING Direct customer since January 26th, 2005. I have never had a problem and have always enjoyed fair interest rates and great customer service. My local bank, on the other hand, has been nothing but problems. In fact I have been saying for weeks that I was going to have to switch banks because I just kept getting so upset every time I had to go to the local branch to fix this or fix that. Well not anymore! Introducing Electric Orange from ING Direct! A checking account from ING Direct!

I probably just opened (like 15 minutes ago) one of the first ING Direct checking accounts ever and I am thrilled! It comes with free online bill pay, a MasterCard Debit card, $250 overdraft protection (pay interest not fees), direct-deposit capability, and some “electric check” feature where I can send electronic checks to other people’s accounts via email. Weird but it sounds cool.

I have to tell you, over the past couple of months I have looked into quite a few online checking accounts and just never found anything that was convincing enough to uproot my setup here with my local bank. But just the fact that ING Direct is the name behind the checking account was reason enough this time. I’ll be getting my debit card within a week and I am going to be calling my payroll folks at work to setup my direct deposit tomorrow.

Is this just the ranting of a lone lunatic? Does his uncle work at ING Direct? Maybe. But maybe not. Marketers at the big banks have to take notice of this. Granted, the 24-year-old Justins of today don’t need sophisticated financial advice, 529 plans, or mortgages. But they will — and soon. In fact, most of today’s Gen Yers are already thinking about saving for retirement.

Justin’s post says a lot about who’s going to win these customers when they are in the market for more financial products — as well as saying a lot about the future of the branch.

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6 thoughts on “ING Direct’s Emotional Connection With Customers

  1. This is Justin over from! I just want to say that I can’t emphasize enough how loyal to ING Direct that I am. I am not affiliated with anyone at the company and as a young person am just looking for simple, worry-free banking. Local banks just aren’t cutting it for me. What’s neat about ING Direct, I have never spoken to one person or seen one person that works there – yet I do have that emotional connection and would agree that this is important in any customer experience. I have been contemplating purchasing their long-term investment products (mutual fund portfolios I think) but just haven’t taken the time to think seriously about it. I wish there was more companies like ING Direct…. Thanks for reading my blog posts!

  2. Giving customers a great customer experience has a direct link to the financial bottom line. Another example in the financial services industry shows the power of customer experience. This is First Direct in the UK. First Direct is an online bank formed by Midland Bank. They believe in and practice delivery of a positive customer experience: “We believe banking should fit around you; not us. Most banks are about money. First Direct is about people.”

    Here’s what you are looking for … evidence of the link between serving customers and generating profitable growth. First Direct gets a new customer every 5 seconds … from customers referring their friends and associates to First Direct. Every 5 seconds. That is not a typo.

    I hope you will find such examples useful … posted on It seems our objectives are the same — encourage more companies to follow the lead that First Direct and ING Direct are setting.

  3. Dale,

    Thanks for visiting the site and leaving a comment.

    I can’t comment on what First Direct is doing right… but my strong bet is that if they’re successful, they’re doing a lot more than just SAYING they’re “about people.”

    This is a key point, and a critical part of Justin’s post. A bank can NOT advertise its way to greatness. And a bank can’t simply talk generically about the “customer experience.” Too many banks (especially here in the US) are caught up believing that a great “experience” is something that a customer has face to face or through web site design and functionality.

    But listen to what Justin said — he’s “just looking for simple, worry-free banking”. I wrote about this desire in my post about the Cranky. This is the funky part: In essence, what Justin (and I believe that a lot of the Cranky like me) are saying is “NO experience is a great experience.”

    If it works, and I don’t have to deal with the bank, talk the bank, etc. — then I’m happy. And emotionally connected. And loyal.

  4. Ron, The more I’ve thought about this, the more I’m identifying myself as a Cranky, too. I prefer experience on demand (or at least packaged with an easy opt-out) and no experience without invitation.

    ING Direct gets that. Simple and intuitive tools, matter-of-fact marketing with a clear message: “Here’s our rate. You know it’s good,” no sales calls to my house, and relevant email marketing.

    I was thrilled to get my invitation to Electric Orange. I love getting the “here’s your new savings rate” messages. And there’s always an easy opt-out that I’ve yet to think about taking.

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  6. I was a huge fan of ING, until I tried to withdraw money. I have been depositing money for three years with this bank. Then last night for the first time I tried to withdraw money. Sure enough, transaction denied.

    So here’s the story I get today, apparently three years ago they sent two small transactions to my bank. I confirmed the amount of these transactions, but my wife did not, and as she is a joint account holder, I cannot withdraw money.

    If this is their policy than so be it, what I don’t understand is how come every time I log into the website, I don’t get a big red message saying your account is not authorized for withdrawals.

    There are really only two things you do at a bank, put money in and take money out. ING seems to be good at the first, but not so good at the latter. You would think that an online bank, with all of the skepticism about online banking, would know better! Unless of course their ultimate goal is to never give me my money back, which for all I know is true!

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