Big Banks Make Big Gains in Customer Satisfaction

*Guest post by Karen Licker, Financial Services Social Media & Marketing (Independent) at J.D. Power and Associates

Overall customer satisfaction with retail banks improved significantly from 2012, largely a result of improvements made by big banks, (1) according to our J.D. Power and Associates 2013 U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction StudySM  released today.

“Many of the big banks have made great strides in listening to what their customers are asking for: reducing the number of problems customers encounter and, more importantly, improving satisfaction with fees,” said our own Jim Miller, senior director of banking here at J.D. Power and Associates

Below are a few highlights from the study:

  • Fees have begun to stabilize and banks have helped their customers better understand their fee structures.  Satisfaction in this area has begun to rebound, and is up by 14 points this year from 2012.
  • One-third (33%) of customers say they “completely” understand their fee structure, compared with 26 percent in 2012.
  • Fees also have been a major source of customer problems and complaints. The stability in fees, coupled with banks placing more emphasis on preventing problems, has lowered the proportion of customers experiencing a problem by 3 percentage points year over year, to 18 percent in 2013.
  • While customers appreciate the personal service they receive at their branch, such transactions are slowly declining, while the numbers of online, ATM and mobile banking transactions are increasing.
  • As banks roll out envelope-free ATM deposits and deposits by mobile phone, customers are finding it easier to handle routine transactions without needing to visit their branch.

“Successful banks are not pushing customers out of the branch, but rather providing tools that make it easier to conduct their banking business when and where it is convenient for them,” said Miller. “Customers are quickly adopting mobile banking, making it a critical service channel for banks, not just a ‘nice to have’ option.”

For study results by region, view retail banking satisfaction rankings at JDPower.com

For more information on this 2013 U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study, please contact Holly Zagresky at (248) 680-6319 or via email at Holly_Zagresky@jdpa.com

(1)Big banks are defined as the six largest financial institutions based on total deposits as reported by the FDIC, averaging $180 billion and above. Regional banks are defined as those with between $180 billion and $33 billion in deposits. Midsize banks are defined as those with between $33 billion and $2 billion in deposits.

Satisfaction With Social Media Interaction

Guest post by Karen Licker, Social Banker & Content Contributor (Independent) at J.D. Power and Associates

Social media, a non-traditional method of customer interaction is clearly becoming increasingly important for banks to understand.

It’s no longer just a vehicle for customers to vent about poor experiences, praise their bank for exceeding expectations, or read about other customers’ positive or negative experiences—it has now become a legitimate service channel!

Social media sites not only allow customers to interact with their bank, but also provide another medium to converse with representatives, get questions answered, and resolve problems. For example, data from our 2012 J.D. Power and Associates US Credit Card Customer Satisfaction Study shows that during the past 12 months, 5% of credit card customers have contacted their issuer through their social media site to ask a question, resolve a problem, or make a request.

Although many questions or problems may need to be handled outside of the social media site that was the initial contact, it is important for banks to show they are listening to their customers’ “pain points” by providing an actual response to the social media posting.

Did you know that only 60% of customers who contacted their credit card issuer via social media received a reply?

Needles to say, the impact of replying to a posting on overall satisfaction is profound, as Interaction satisfaction among customers who have received a reply to their social media contact is notably higher than among those who did not receive a reply (802 vs. 748, respectively). Findings from our recent study also revealed that optimizing customer satisfaction with their social media experience does not end at merely responding to the request, but that issuers should continue to focus on the following:

  • Resolving the initial issue at hand
  • Offering additional assistance
  • Thanking the customer for their business

When each of these best practices are met, Interaction satisfaction increases to 839, which is 91 points higher than when they are not met.

Source: J.D. Power and Associates 2012 US Credit Card Satisfaction StudySM    

The Bottom Line:
With the continued advancement of technology shifting the way customers interact with financial institutions, it is vital for banks to proactively respond to the changing demands of their self-service channels and understand the importance of being responsive to feedback posted on social media sites.

 

How Banks Charge Fees Without Jeopardizing Customer Satisfaction

*Guest post by Karen Licker, Social Banker & Content Contributor (Independent) at J.D. Power and Associates

As banks continue to explore ways to manage the sensitivity around charging fees while minimizing the impact associated with charging those fees, it’s important to focus on the following three areas:

1. Stability
The data from our 2012 U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study shows that fee structure changes not only have a significant impact on customer satisfaction, but they also lead to an increase in problem incidence and intended attrition. The following are some best practices banks should consider when making changes to fee structures:

  • When changes are necessary, focus on limiting the number of changes customers are forces to accept. For example, making two or three changes to fee structures per year may be more confusing and less satisfying than making multiple changes at one time.
  • When fee changes are necessary, it is critical to communicate the changes well in advance so that customers are not caught by surprise.
  • While communication of fees is mandatory, there are some other ways for financial institutions to help ensure customers are aware of changes—e.g., communicating changes more than once and preferably via multiple channels, such as mailed letter and online notification.

 

Source: J.D. Power and Associates 2012 U.S. Banking Satisfaction Study

2. Communication

The impact of communication on the fee experience goes far beyond simply providing advance notice of any changes to the fee structure. There are other best practices that banks can follow to provide their customers with more information regarding fees or information on other product pricing options available:

Account initiation: Starting with account initiation, it’s vital that representatives perform a detailed needs assessment and identify the products that meets customers’ needs. Performing a detailed needs assessment during account initiation provides a big lift in fee understanding (22 percentage point difference for “completely” identified needs) , while also providing a significant lift in satisfaction.

Online account information: It goes without saying that providing customers with clear and concise access to account information and other pertinent information via the bank’s website is crucial. Clarity of account information and Clarity of information provided on the website provide considerable lifts in Fees satisfaction, while also improving fee understanding by 16 percentage points.

Outbound communication: Proactively contacting customers three or four times per year regarding banking products and services enhances satisfaction and understanding of both fees and product offerings, without creating information overload. Study findings show that satisfaction and understanding both begin to decline when customers receive five or more proactive contacts per year. This also includes performing account reviews to ensure customers have the right products. Empowering branch tellers and call center representatives to proactively review customer accounts and make recommendations for alternative products and pricing options provides lifts in Fees satisfaction and understanding and significantly improves the bank’s Brand Image rating for being Customer driven.

3. Value-Based Pricing

Despite the current level of price sensitivity related to service charges, such as maintenance fees and minimum balance requirements, there is still an opportunity for banks to generate revenue through maintenance fee charges by creating a clear value proposition aligned with the differing needs of their customer base. It’s also important to review the options that banks currently provide their customers with respect to maintenance fee charges.

Many banks have installed a minimum balance requirement so that customers are able to avoid maintenance fee charges, but it has created various levels of dissatisfaction. At the same time, customers indicated that discounts for students, senior citizens, military personnel, or multiple products are not widely offered, which may be related to poor communication of the discounts by the institution and, thereby, low customer awareness. But most importantly, many banks do not clearly communicate the benefits customers will receive in exchange for the maintenance fees they pay, nor are banks providing different pricing options based on channel and product usage.

By understanding the key drivers of high fee/above-average satisfaction across segments, as depicted above, banks should consider the following strategies:

Explain the value proposition—When considering how to roll out a new monthly maintenance fee structure for customers in a particular segment, banks should emphasize the offerings most important to that specific segment. For example, in their explanations to customers in the Affluent segment, banks should promote their mobile banking applications/improvements; their ability to provide proactive advice on accounts; their focus on an efficient and courteous branch experience; and their product offerings, such as debit card with rewards and mortgage discounts.

Develop unique pricing options—By understanding channel preference and usage, banks may potentially create unique pricing strategies. For example, since data shows that customers in the Affluent/Emerging Affluent segment tend to have lower levels of branch usage and preference than do other customers, banks may potentially offer these customers a special rate for low branch usage, such as visiting a branch once every 4 months. From the perspective of customers, they are getting a special deal for something that relates directly to them, and from the bank’s perspective, they tend to benefit by minimizing branch traffic and staffing needs.

The Bottom Line:
There are a few banks across the industry that are able to charge customers maintenance fees without jeopardizing satisfaction, including Frost National Bank, Woodforest Bank, Hancock Bank, and S&T Bank. Customers of these institutions are more likely to be charged maintenance fees, compared with industry average, yet Fees satisfaction remains significantly above average.

 

Key Banking Topics in Social Media

*Guest post by Karen Licker, Social Banker & Content Contributor (Independent) at J.D. Power and Associates

The challenges confronting banks that seek to bolster their bottom-line profitability, retain customers, and stay competitive in the marketplace are formidable. Research conducted by J.D. Power‘s Consumer Insight and Strategies Group to track social media activity regarding banking issues between April 2011 and March 2012 finds that:

  • Online sentiment was distinctly negative not only regarding fees, but also for bank technology
  • Complaints associated with website or online issues were a major source of discontent in technology-related messages

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With customer feedback on critical topics discussed online going from technology to fees and service, banks should see the handwriting on the wall and provide an appropriate outlet for these customers, along with an acknowledgement and guidance for direction for immediate response.

Retail Banks aren’t the only ones that have an opportunity to engage with the vocal online customer. Credit card holders appear to be even more outspoken online, but card issuers appear to have learned this a bit faster than their Retail Banking peers.

  • 43% more credit card customers indicated that their financial institution responded to their online post than for Retail Bank customers (J.D. Power and Associates 2011 Credit Card Satisfaction Study). This may not be surprising, however, given the more virtual nature of interaction associated with credit card servicing.
  • Mobile apps for payments, online sites for daily transactions and much heavier reliance on phone-based rather than in-person interaction all combine to make the credit card environment more conducive to engaging the customer online.

Financial services, however, need to step up to the plate more and address the disgruntled customer. While these percentages are a step in the right direction, there is much more to be done to placate this online audience and turn the negative intensity and passion around.

3 Reasons Customers May Break up With Your Bank and How to Avoid Them

*Guest post by Karen Licker, Social Banker & Content Contributor (Independent) at J.D. Power and Associates

Just like with couples, the relationship between retail banking customers and their financial institution is complex.   As with any relationship, a healthy connection between two parties is one that develops over time and is typically based on mutual respect, trust, honesty and support.

Most of us know that it takes effort for healthy relationships to work!  Whether we like it or not however, breakups do happen and in the case of bank customers, they get over them quickly and move on to another bank relationship.

The following are a few valuable insights about why retail bank customers may break up with you and how you can implement a few change initiatives to maintain a healthy connection with your customers….to avoid the bank break up.

Reason #1:  Callous Communication – Problems become a customer’s biggest problem

Problem prevention needs to be a high priority for all financial institutions, given the incidence of problems (22% of customers[1] indicate experiencing a problem) and the significant impact that problem incidence has on overall customer satisfaction.

Prevention Tips

  • Ensure customers understand fee structures, deal honestly with them and explain the fees right up front – it improves awareness of fees and minimizes complaints.
  • Engage new customers during account initiation to identify their needs and sell them the products that meet those needs …..it lowers the incidence of future problems if they are happy from the start.
  • Empower bank representatives (branch and call center) with the necessary authority, and provide proper training that will allow them to address any customer misunderstandings at the first point of contact.   It will eliminate confusion for future problems.

Reason #2 – Unmet Needs – You’re not giving them enough of what they want

To successfully manage customer expectations, it is critical to offer the product features and services that meet customers’ needs, such as direct deposit; electronic statements with check images; and overdraft protection. When customers are offered six or more features or services, satisfaction is 58 points higher than when customers are offered fewer than six features or services.

Prevention Tips

  • Show them some love, and offer customers the other innovative products and services that meet their needs at the time of account opening—more than the standard banking products (i.e., checking, savings).
  • Explain the benefits of the services associated with these products (i.e., overdraft protection), not just the features
  • Proactively contact customers.  They love personalized follow-up service, and it leads to greater product penetration and increased satisfaction.
  • Creatively communicate with your customers and use interactive channels —customers who cite communication via email, phone, or at the branch have a higher incidence of opening new accounts than those customers who are just contacted via mail.

Reason #3:  Feeling Underappreciated – In-branch or phone customer service is painful

It is key for financial institutions to focus on providing basic customer service elements in branch offices and on the phone.  From the moment a customer steps into the branch or calls on the phone, each point of the interaction shapes perception of the banking relationship as a whole.  The optimal in-branch or phone experience begins with a focused lobby management program designed around key elements of customer satisfaction is vital.

Prevention Tips

  • Show them you care and provide personal service during customer visits to the branch.  Some include activities such as: greeting, calling the customer by name; offering further assistance; and thanking them for their business after completion of the transaction.
  • Show them you care and provide personal service during call center calls.  Some include activities such as: greeting customers in a friendly manner; providing their own name to the customer; having the customer’s information available; handling any problems without transferring customers; and concluding with offering the customer further assistance and thanking them for their business.
  • Courtesy counts, so provide a level of service that shows patience, respect and empathy.   This not only increases satisfaction, loyalty, and retention but also has a significant impact on reducing future problems.
  • Ensure executive management and company-wide ownership of basic service elements and initiatives. Managers must regularly communicate to employees the bank’s priority on satisfaction.

[1] J.D. Power and Associates 2011 Retail Banking Satisfaction Study