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Banking Customer Satisfaction Barometer Inches Up

By Peter Suciu CRM Buyer ECT News Network
Jan 26, 2017 3:25 PM PT

Customer satisfaction with banking institutions improved last year, based on the annual Bank Satisfaction Barometer CFI Group released Thursday.

Customers were more likely to remain loyal to their bank and even recommend it to others, according to the annual survey of bank customers across the United States.

Banks improved their standing with customers and maintained stronger relationships, with the Bank Satisfaction Barometer reaching a four-year-high of 82, up three points from 79 in 2015.

Banking customers, especially younger ones, were much more likely to use additional services offered by their financial institutions, the study found.

"Millennials present a great opportunity for growth in 2017," said Sheri Petras, CEO at CFI Group.

"Sixty-one percent of millennials said they plan to sign up for additional services with their bank within the next year, compared to 51 percent for gen Xers and just 18 percent for (baby) boomers," she added. "Banks need to make sure the products and services they offer meet the needs of the millennial generation."

Factors Contributing to Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction came down to products and services, and branch staff performance, according to the report.

"Branch staff are the face of the bank, and a representative who is friendly, knowledgeable and empathetic will often make a personal connection to the customer," explained Mark Galauner, senior customer insights consultant at CFI Group, and one of the authors of the study.

"When you combine that personal connection with a relevant mix of products and services, you have a customer that is satisfied not only on a personal level but on a professional level as well," he told CRM Buyer.

Customers who are satisfied both personally and professionally will have a strong loyalty to the bank and will even be willing to recommend the bank to friends and family, Galauner added.

"That is the kind of customer every business dreams of having," he noted.

Opportunities for 2017

Financial institutions have several opportunities to direct their focus toward better customer service, CFI Group suggested. Greater engagement with local communities, enhanced loyalty programs, and better digital experiences would improve the banking customer experience. Further, ensuring that the needs of millennial customers are met is important, as this segment will allow for future growth.

"If banks are interested in millennial customers, aka the future, they should double down on customer experience," advised Ian Campbell, CEO of Nucleus Research.

"This is is a generation that naturally gravitates to the best software services and new social media platforms," he told CRM Buyer. "Change is a constant, and their loyalty lies with the institution that delivers the best value. Today's differentiator is customer experience."

Better Satisfaction, Better Bottom Line

Providing quality satisfaction is ever more crucial, as consumers have so many options and opportunities to take their business elsewhere.

"We have found that customer satisfaction is a leading indicator of company financial performance," noted CFI's Galauner.

"Stocks of companies with high satisfaction scores tend to do better than those of companies with low scores," he added. "It is similar for banks, [and those] with satisfied customers will have a more loyal and engaged customer base."

This may be even more critical in the digital age.

"Back in the early days of online banking, many customers made decisions based on which bank had the best features," noted Nucleus Research's Campbell.

"Some had clear tech advantages and were able to capitalize on that," he said.

"Today we see a relatively level playing field on the tech front, so the big differentiator is the customer experience, and this is probably the single most important reason today why customers switch from one institution to another," Campbell added. "If I ran a bank, I'd make customer experience priority No. 1. That's why we are seeing the rise of more personal banks, like First Republic."

Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and fitness-related trends for more than a decade. His work has appeared in more than three dozen publications, and he is the co-author of Careers in the Computer Game Industry (Career in the New Economy series), a career guide aimed at high school students from Rosen Publishing. You can connect with Peter on Google+.

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