JPMorgan Chase is making birthday wishes a high-tech art form for its customers.

Its automated teller machines and its banking website display a special message for customers a week before and after their birthdays. The messages are part of a broader plan launched in 2011 by the New York company to improve the consumer experience.

“We felt that if we did a better job of delighting our customers they would stick around longer,” says Emmett Vollenweider, chief administration officer for consumer and community banking and head of customer experience. “We felt they would recommend us to other customers and if they had a banking need they would come to us first.”

Wishing customers a happy birthday started out in a decidedly low-tech fashion. Originally branch employees were given a list of customers who had upcoming birthdays and they simply wrote notes to wish them well. Then employees asked the bank for actual birthday cards they could use.

After these initial efforts, a branch employee suggested that the bank’s ATMs should also say happy birthday, Vollenweider says. (JPMorgan has a system that lets employees electronically submit suggestions. The roughly 65,000 tips received each year are sorted and sent to the appropriate management team.)

Management embraced the idea, so JPMorgan started with a pilot program and then eventually expanded it nationwide in the first quarter of 2013. Roughly 120,000 JPMorgan customers celebrate a birthday every day so there are approximately 500,000 birthday messages being displayed on any given day. The notes can be displayed in English or Spanish.

“It is just a nice surprise for the customer,” Vollenweider says. “The impersonal suddenly becomes very personal.” 

Customers have responded well to the messages, and the bank often receives notes about them through social media, including Facebook and Twitter, Vollenweider says.

Others are doing similar things. Wells Fargo also posts happy birthday messages at its ATMs – complete with electronic confetti – and has received a positive response from customers via social media as well.  

JPMorgan has used its ability to personalize messages on ATMs for other limited purposes, such as telling customers where the closest open branch was during Hurricane Sandy.

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