While the financial markets have posted another year of strong returns, overall investor satisfaction as measured by the J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Full Service Investor Satisfaction StudySM remains unchanged from 2014. This marks the first time since 2009 that industry satisfaction did not increase in parallel with the S&P 500.
A reduced market growth rate relative to 2014 coupled with increased volatility may partially account for the lack of improvement, although myriad factors within the industry are also changing as new competitive threats emerge and investor expectations evolve along with technology and demographics. Additional high-level findings emerging from the study include:
- Improvements in overall satisfaction for large market share firms contribute to the stable industry average in 2015.
- Firms that build strong client-focused relationships mitigate the impact of market volatility.
- While overall satisfaction is stable, investors’ outlook on the economy in general and their personal financial status continue to rise for the fourth consecutive year.
In addition to identifying the primary drivers of investor satisfaction and benchmarking the performance of firms, the Full-Service Investor Study also provides valuable insights on pertinent industry trends such as:
- Changing investor demographics: Gen Y/Z and women
- Wealth transfer
- Preparing advisors for success
- Planning and goals-based investing
- Providing transparency on performance and fees
- Changing competitive landscape
Results from the 2015 Full-Service Investor Study were released to subscribers the week of April 6th.
Driven by the adoption of mobile banking and increased functionality of the website and ATM channels, a new segment of ‘virtual’ retail banking customers is emerging (those who only interact via digital channels). These customers have unique preferences and expectations that can present challenges to banks attempting to improve satisfaction and loyalty metrics. Data from the first three fielding waves of the 2015 J.D. Power U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study can help banks understand the different segments of retail banking customers, and identify how the customer experience may differ from one segment to the next.
For example, study data finds that the negative impact of fees is considerably greater among virtual-only customers (compared to customers who only transact via the branch and ATM). Furthermore, virtual-only customers are more likely to incur certain fee charges and are less likely to indicate that their minimum-balance requirement is reasonable.
Based on these findings, banks can develop strategies designed to improve the fee experience amongst their virtual customer base:
- Clearly illustrate the ‘value’ that customers are receiving in exchange for the fees they pay. For example, in exchange for a given fee, virtual-only customers are receiving a highly functional website and mobile app that allow them transact with the bank in their preferred manner.
- Invest resources in improving aspects of the customer experience that may improve the ‘value proposition’ perceived by virtual-only customers.
- Focus on fee and product education, which may be especially difficult for virtual-only customers who may not visit a branch to receive a face-to-face explanation.
- Consider proactive account reviews of virtual-only customers to ensure that customers are aligned to the correct account. If a better option exists, proactively contact the customer with an alternative product that will benefit them.
The complete 2015 J.D. Power U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study (with all four waves of data) publishes on April 28th.
There is a strong relationship between satisfaction and financial outcomes. Specifically, retail banking customers with high levels of satisfaction (overall scores of 900-1,000) have significantly higher advocacy rates, stronger loyalty, and greater share of wallet than customers with low satisfaction (scores of 700 and lower).
By making a concerted effort to enhance the overall customer experience, banks that are able to achieve high levels of satisfaction stand to benefit from stronger bottom-line growth and improved overall financial performance:
- Achieving a 50-point improvement in customer satisfaction leads to an increase in deposits, loans, and investment dollars equating to a 6% increase in revenue, or $27 million per 500,000 customers.1
- Higher levels of satisfaction are also tied to improved brand perceptions. Customers with high levels of satisfaction (900+) provide an average rating of 6.5 (on a 7-point scale) for the Brand Image attribute Good reputation vs. 6.0 for customers with satisfaction scores of 800-899. The ratings decline to 5.4 among customers with satisfaction scores of 700-799, and to 4.4 among customers of banks with scores below 700.
- Banks that recognize the value of customer satisfaction programs—as measured based on subscription to the U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study, 2010-20142—show greater improvement, compared with non-subscribers, in not only satisfaction (+49 points vs. +30 points, respectively), but also in metrics measuring loyalty (+8 percentage points vs. +4 percentage points); advocacy (+8 percentage points vs. +3 percentage points); and retention (+8 percentage points vs. +3 percentage points).
1 Assumptions: Deposits and share of wallet is self-reported. Interest margin for deposits and borrowing accounts is 3% and 1% for investments. Service charges on deposit accounts = .23% of deposits
2 Subscribers are those banks who subscribed to the J.D. Power Retail Banking Satisfaction Study in at least 3 of the last 5 years (2010-2014).
Source: J.D. Power U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study
Data from the 2014 J.D. Power Small Business Banking Satisfaction Study finds that small businesses are feeling more positive about the financial outlook of their business and the American economy. However, there are significant differences when analyzing results by business size. As displayed in the chart below, small businesses with sales volume of $100k-$249k are less confident about their business outlook and the outlook for the American economy.
Study data also finds that businesses with sales volume of $100k-$249k are significantly less satisfied with the service they receive from their business banking institution. More specifically, these customers are less satisfied across multiple aspects of the business banking experience including Product Offerings, Fees, Credit Services and Problem Resolution.
Banks may have a tendency to overlook business clients of this size and focus on those with larger sales volumes. However, it is important to consider how the current level of dissatisfaction amongst small businesses with sales volume of $100k-$249k may impact bottom-line performance.
For starters, business banking customers that are dissatisfied with their current institution are more likely to attrit and initiate a relationship with a new business banking institution. Additionally, approximately 3/4ths of business customers with sales volume of $10ok-$249k also have personal banking accounts at their business banking institution. Therefore, by failing to satisfy the needs of business banking customers, banks are not only risking the loss of small business relationships, but also the personal relationships that small business customers may also have with the institution.
Profit margins remain a considerable challenge for retail banks, driven largely by regulatory pressures, low interest rates and the decline of fee-related revenue streams. In response to this, banks are continuously looking for cost-cutting opportunities.
Data from the first three fielding waves of the 2015 J.D. Power Retail Banking Satisfaction Study suggests that reducing branch operating hours could be an attractive option for banks looking to trim operating costs. For starters, branch traffic has been declining the past several years, driven mainly by the digital functionality now available via Mobile, ATM and Website interaction channels.
Analysis of study data also finds that the positive impact of providing extended weekday or weekend hours has declined significantly since 2010. For banks looking to reduce operating hours, the chart below may help prioritize their options. For example, data suggests that offering extended weekday hours is considerably more impactful than offering either Saturday or Sunday hours, so banks should likely consider cutting Saturday and Sunday hours before reducing extended weekday hours. Additionally, the positive impact of Sunday hours has declined the most since 2010, potentially making it the first option for banks to cut.
It is also important to note, however, that the negative impact of providing only standard operating hours (9:00-5:00 Mondays through Fridays) remains significant, although the negative impact has decreased over the past five years. This seems to suggest that banks should still consider offering either extended weekday OR weekend operating hours, but that they no longer need to offer both.
Lastly, as with any cost-cutting decision, banks must be strategic in their approach to reducing hours of operation. Some customers will likely react negatively to the change in routine, particularly certain demographic segments that rely more heavily on branch interaction. Data also finds that customer needs and expectations regarding branch hours varies widely by geography. In turn, banks must consider the unique needs of their different markets to help prioritize options for reducing branch hours.
Additional ideas for banks to consider may include:
Analyze traffic patterns across entire branch network to help identify branches that are the best candidates for reduction of hours and/or what types of reductions should be considered (should I trim extended weekday hours, Saturday hours, or Sunday hours??).
Develop a detailed marketing strategy to communicate any planned reductions in-advance of implementation, while also promoting any digital functionality that customers can use in-place of the branch (i.e., deposits via ATM or Mobile).
Use multiple channels (emails, direct mail and branch signage) to deliver the message.
With increased functionality such as mobile phone check deposits, online chat, envelope-free ATM deposits, and image-enabled ATM receipts, retail banking customers are able to fully manage their account without ever stepping into a branch or contacting the call center. While this can create significant cost savings by reducing branch traffic and decreasing the number of calls to the call center, there is also a considerable downside, based on findings from the 2014 J.D. Power Retail Banking Satisfaction Study.
Despite having similar demographics and product portfolios, self-service customers—those who have interacted only via remote channels during the past 12 months for routine transactions—are not only less satisfied with their banking experience, but are also less committed than are those who have visited a branch or called the call center during the past 12 months for routine transactions. Further, self-service customers tend to be less engaged and, in fact, are often indifferent toward their bank, as a larger percentage of self-service customers say they “probably will” or “probably will not” recommend, reuse, and switch, compared with assisted customers.
Banks that are able to elevate customer commitment levels among self-service customers can benefit from improved overall financial performance. Specifically, banks that convert 2% of customers with low commitment and 5% of those with medium commitment into customers with high commitment stand to gain $1.68 million in interest revenue from greater deposits, investments, and loans per 100,000 customers.
Analysis of study data also finds that some banks are currently more successful at satisfying their virtual-only customers. For example, as displayed in the chart below, Bank K has the lowest overall satisfaction score amongst its virtual-only customers (720 on a 1,000-point scale). Meanwhile, Bank H has the largest percentage of virtual-only customers within their population (40%), making it especially critical for them to improve the overall experience of virtual customers.
Self-service customers have different priorities and needs than assisted customers, which makes it essential for financial institutions to adjust their strategy in servicing these customers. Recommendations for additional areas of focus include:
- If you got it, flaunt it; if you don’t got it, get it. Channel features are important to this segment, and while banks often do offer the features customers want, many are unaware of them, so it is important to ensure features/services are fully marketed. Furthermore, banks should continually look to add features to meet the changing needs of customers and, in turn, to remain competitive.
- Be proactive, not reactive. Self-service customers place great importance on product offerings and tend to be critical of their bank’s value proposition; therefore, financial institutions need to proactively communicate with these customers and ensure they are aware of all product features/services and fully understand how and when fees will be incurred. Moreover, banks should consider implementing programs in which bank representatives and advisors proactively reach out to self-service customers to provide advice related to their financial needs.
- If it’s broken, fix it. It is critical for banks to minimize the occurrence of problems. To achieve this, banks should focus on reducing the problems that not only have the greatest impact on satisfaction and retention, but also those that occur most frequently. Banks need to collect and analyze customer and employee data to determine root causes of problems and revise processes that are ineffective or problematic. Furthermore, banks have an opportunity to improve their rates of problem resolution via remote channels. The level of service that is provided via all channels needs to be optimum; however, banks need to pay close attention to service levels by remote channels (email/online chat) ensuring consistent and effective resolution of issues. Additionally, banks need to understand which problems can’t be fully resolved using a remote channel and revisit policies and procedures to improve the effectiveness of these channels.
 High commitment is defined as providing combined ratings of 17-20 points based on responses to the four commitment statements; medium commitment is defined as providing combined ratings of 12-16 points based on responses to the four commitment statements; low commitment is defined as providing combined ratings of 11 points or less based on responses to the four commitment statements.
 Assumes a 3% interest margin
Findings from the 2014 J.D. Power U.S. Primary Mortgage Origination Study reinforce that shifting market conditions have led to new dynamics:
- Purchase has become the majority
- New Home Purchase: 57% in 2014 vs. 36% in 2013
- Refinance: 43% in 2014 vs. 64% in 2013
- The average age of respondents is younger in 2014 than in 2013
- The average age of respondents is 3 years younger in 2014 than in 2013 (45 vs. 48, respectively)
- The proportion of respondents age 35 or younger has risen sharply to 36% in 2014 from 25% in 2013
One theme that remains consistent, however, is the importance of transparent communication throughout the process. In turn, financial institutions that can maintain clear and consistent communication with their mortgage customers are more likely to ease the confusion and anxiety often associated with the origination process (particularly amongst younger or first-time purchasers).
First and foremost, it is critical to completely educate customers on ALL aspects of the process and product terms. As displayed in the chart below, successful communication regarding these topics can significantly improve customer satisfaction, yet the industry has considerable room for improvement. Currently, only 45% of customers feel that all aspects of the process and product terminology were ‘completely’ explained to them.
Additionally, it is critical for loan representatives to provide frequent status updates related to the approval and closing processes. Both of these best practices also carry a significant impact on customer satisfaction:
Although mortgage origination customers are increasingly looking to use multiple channels/methods at different phases of the origination process, it is critical for financial institutions to maintain a consistent focus on personal interactions with their customer base:
- Clear and accurate expectations must be set from the outset and reinforced throughout the process. A lack of transparency at any point in the process can create stress and concern that can harm the relationship.
- Face-to-face interactions are a key channel used by younger, first-time buyers to obtain information and learn about the process. Front-line associates must be prepared to act as an advisor and counselor.
- From limiting paperwork and preventing duplication of effort to providing proactive updates, minimizing customer effort is at the heart of a great experience.
The ‘value’ of female investors is growing. As the percentage of females graduating college and opening small businesses increases, so does the proportion of America’s investable assets held by the female population. For investment advisors and firms, their ability to satisfy the unique needs of female investors will help them capture a greater share of the investable assets held by the female population.
Data from the 2014 J.D. Power U.S. Full-Service Investor Satisfaction Study helps to identify some underlying characteristics of female investors. For example, women investors tend to place more value on a ‘trusting’ relationship with an investment advisor, and are more likely to collaborate closely with their investment advisor.
Data also indicates that women investors are more ‘critical’ of advisors that fail to engage them in discussions regarding their investment goals, strategies and performance. For example, when an advisor fails to fully educate a client on their investment portfolio, the negative impact^ on satisfaction is significantly greater among females than males (-104 vs. -76, respectively, on a 1,000-point scale).
Key takeaways for investment firms and advisors and to consider:
-Firms need to review the way they recruit, train, team and incent advisors to better align with behaviors that will drive stronger long term client relationships with an increasingly diverse set of financial decision makers
- Advisors need to be proactive in developing a meaningful dialogue with women clients to establish personal goals and provide a clear ongoing understanding of how performance connects with those goals
^ ‘Impact’ is defined as the difference in satisfaction when the service best practice is met vs. not met
Within the retail banking industry, account initiation is often viewed as a key ‘moment-of-truth’. In many cases, the opening of an account/product/service is the first interaction between customer and a bank. Other times, account initiation represents an opportunity for banks to engage tenured customers in a discussion about their evolving financial needs.
As part of the 2015 Retail Banking Satisfaction Study, J.D. Power measures customer satisfaction with the opening of banking accounts, products and services. Specifically with regards to accounts that were opened in a branch, study data finds that customers are most dissatisfied with the experience opening checking and HELOC products. Conversely, new account satisfaction is highest among customers opening personal loans and CD’s.
There are different variables driving the high and low satisfaction scores for these products. For example:
-HELOC dissatisfaction is driven by complexity of the process, as customers opening these products are significantly more likely to say the process was ‘more complicated than expected’.
-The level of engagement between bank and customer is lowest for customers opening a checking account, which often leads to lower levels of product awareness/understanding. In turn, the lack of awareness drives lower satisfaction scores.
-Opposite of the experience reported by customers opening a checking account, those opening a personal loan/line of credit indicate that the branch representative was very thorough in assessing needs and was more likely to provide useful information during the interaction.
Understanding which aspects of account initiation are most troublesome for their unique customer base can help a bank implement necessary changes. In some cases, focus should be placed on simplifying processes. Other times, providing additional training/education to staff can help them more accurately assess customer needs and provide additional value during the interaction.
In addition to identifying the overall weighted^ drivers of customer satisfaction within a given industry, the flexibility of the J.D. Power Index Model can also pinpoint differences based on consumer behaviors and demographics. For example, Rewards may be a vital part of the experience for one segment of credit card customers, while Card Terms may be more important to a different segment of customers.
With regards to the credit card experience, the drivers of customer satisfaction differ between new and tenured cardholders. Card Terms (e.g. fees, rates, credit limits) is a bigger driver of satisfaction amongst new cardholders (less than one year with issuer), while Billing/Payment and Interaction (e.g. website, call center representative) are bigger drivers of satisfaction amongst tenured cardholders (one year or more with issuer).
Analysis of data from the 2014 Credit Card Satisfaction Study also finds that most issuers struggle to maintain satisfaction with cardholders as the tenure of their relationship increases. As displayed in the chart below, a majority of issuers receive ‘above-average’ satisfaction amongst new primary cardholders (less than one year). However, only three issuers have above-average satisfaction amongst tenured cardholders (one year or more). This seems to indicate that the ‘shine’ of a new credit card wears off quickly, and it is important for issuers to focus efforts on maintaining satisfaction throughout the life of the relationship.
^For each industry measured, J.D. Power utilizes a multi-regression analysis to identify and prioritize the primary drivers of customer satisfaction.