Past analysis conducted by J.D. Power has found that mergers and acquisitions, if not managed properly, often result in significant declines in both customer satisfaction scores and Brand Image ratings. From the very beginning, customers of the acquired bank are likely to have negative perceptions of the brand to which they’re forced to switch, which amplifies any tactical problems that arise from the adoption of new banking policies, processes, and products.
Prior analysis has also found that retail banking customers typically react negatively to change, particularly when it disrupts their previous pricing structures or general routines. While fee changes are a major source of frustration among customers during a merger/acquisition, simple developments such as changes to online banking, account statements, and product services/features are also causes of frustration. Acquired customers experience more problems than current customers as they struggle to familiarize themselves with the processes and culture of a new financial institution.
Data from the 2013 Retail Banking Satisfaction provides a good case study to examine the potentially disruptive impact of M&A activity. BMO Harris had purchased M&I in 2010, and the conversion process lasted until late 2012. In turn, the 2013 Retail Banking Study found that BMO Harris experienced the largest declines across the industry for both overall satisfaction and the Brand Image rating for Good reputation.
Further, the impact of the merger on both Brand Image ratings and satisfaction scores was more pronounced in certain segments of BMO Harris Bank’s customer base, including geographic location. Given that M&I was headquartered in Milwaukee, it is not unexpected that customer frustration with the merger was significantly more negative in Wisconsin than in Illinois or within the Chicago CSA, which is the home market of BMO Harris. Additionally, decreases in both Brand Image ratings and satisfaction scores were larger among different demographic segments at BMO Harris.
However, data from the first three fielding waves of the 2014 Retail Banking Study shows that BMO has done a solid job of addressing the initial problems and taking corrective action to improve the customer experience. Whereas their overall satisfaction score had decreased by 55 index points in the 2013 study, the first three waves of the 2014 study finds that BMO’s score has rebounded significantly (increase of 45 index points).
Data from the J.D. Power U.S. Full Service Investor Satisfaction Study clearly shows that good market performance influences satisfaction. However, it’s the development of strong relationships with investors that determines which firms thrive. Firms must ensure that advisor actions align with investor expectations and, thus, strengthen both loyalty and advocacy.
Keys to building strong relationships include:
Ensure financial planning activities clearly define a strategy based on key needs and goals. As the relationship progresses, plans must adapt to changes in both the investor’s life circumstances and the broader financial environment.
Tailor the communications approach to the unique needs of the investor instead of using a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Investors want to believe their advisors understand them and their needs, which begins with interacting via their preferred method.
Build transparency into all interactions. Two key issues for all investors are whether they are making as much as they can and whether they are paying too much. Ensuring there is clarity in both areas will help to build trust.
Early 2014 performance indicators are encouraging for credit card issuers, as customer satisfaction is on track to reach its highest level since the inception of the J.D. Power Credit Card Satisfaction StudySM in 2007. And while the Target data breach may have impacted consumer willingness to make electronic purchases, data finds that issuers can use ‘attractive’ rewards offerings to drive higher levels of personal credit card spend.
As expected, customer perceptions of reward attractiveness vary based on their preferences, which are driven by customer demographics and psychographics. For example, comparing two airline co-branded credit cards may show significantly different demographic profiles. One of the cards may frequently attract customers that are younger, less affluent, and less educated, while the other tends to attract older customers that have multiple children living in their household.
Understanding these segmentation differences (i.e., life style, life stage, hobbies/interests, spending habits, etc.) can help issuers design more appealing reward programs. If an issuer determines that a specific airline credit card attracts customers who frequently travel internationally, the issuer could add rewards associated with foreign travel or potentially partner with a hotel chain to allow additional earning opportunities. Another example is a bank-branded card that attracts sports enthusiasts, in which case a credit card issuer could add access to sporting events as a redemption option or partner with leading online ticket retailers to allow customers to pay for tickets using rewards.
Lastly, educating customers on the details of rewards programs is critical in order to maximize the impact on spend. And while it is important to inform customers about all program terms (as indicated in the chart below), lack of awareness regarding the types of rewards available has the greatest individual impact.
Strapped with a wide range of financial burdens, it is tempting for financial institutions to consider pricing changes in an attempt to improve bottom-line performance. However, any changes must be weighed carefully, and the potential business threats must be clearly understood.
Data from JD Power’s Retail Banking Satisfaction Study finds that Overall satisfaction declines significantly when fee changes are implemented, and more importantly, intended attrition levels are three times higher among customers that experience a fee change, compared to those whose fees remain stable.
Pricing changes can also be costly to banks if not handled effectively, through the allocation of resources required to handle customer complaints related to the change. Nearly one third (32%) of customers that experience a fee change contact their bank with a problem and, on average, problems require 1.9 customer contacts to be resolved. Therefore, for every 100,000 retail banking customers that experience a fee change, bank personnel will receive 60,800 contacts. In comparison, for every 100,000 retail banking customers that do not experience a fee change, bank personnel will receive 19,000 contacts.
Estimating that bank representatives can handle 6.5 customer contacts per hour, and that their labor cost is $40 per hour, fee structure changes may result in an incremental labor cost of $257,231 for banks to absorb.
Although data suggests that fee changes have a lagging effect on customer satisfaction (the full impact isn’t recognized until months after the change was made), intended attrition is impacted immediately, as customers tend to ‘overreact’ to a new charge. Therefore, it is particularly critical for financial institutions to minimize the initial bitterness experienced by customers, as this time period represents the greatest risk of attrition.
Lastly, failing to ensure that all customers are fully aware of a fee change in advance can significantly impact customer satisfaction, loyalty and problem metrics. In order to successfully mitigate this problem, banks need to focus on over-communicating the change to ensure the message is fully received by their customer base
Financial institutions should begin the process of communicating fee changes immediately after the decision has been made. The appropriate messaging and delivery methods must be identified, and investing in quantitative or qualitative market research to aid in decisions should be considered. Lastly, the timeframe of the change must kept top-of-mind. Initial communications should begin months before implementation, and because the risk of customer attrition is highest within the first month after a pricing change, banks should place heavy focus on preparing all types of employees on how to handle any immediate backlash from customers.
Credit card issuers need to ensure that proactive outreach campaigns directed at current customers fit the evolving ‘digital world’. Failure to do so may not yield a positive return on the resource expenditures associated with customer communications.
Data from the 2013 Credit Card Satisfaction Study finds that nearly half (46%) of credit card customers did not read/use the most recent proactive communication they received from their issuer, thereby pointing to a potential ‘waste’ of resources spent by card issuers.
However, study findings show that the method used to deliver communications may have a positive impact on whether customers choose to read/use the information. For example, customers are most likely to read/use information provided electronically (emails and text messages), and are least likely to read/use information delivered by standard mail.
Issuers should consider revisions to their communication strategies, focusing on digital delivery of messages. This may also require issuers to rethink the content of their messaging and focus on delivering information in a more concise manner.
Problem prevention should be a focus area for all credit card issuers. Analysis of data from the 2013 Credit Card Satisfaction Study finds that when customers experience a problem, overall satisfaction and customer retention metrics decline significantly.
Preventing the occurrence of problems may also help reduce operational costs. For every 1-percentage-point reduction in problem incidence, issuers may be able to save nearly $230,000 for every 1 million cardholders.
Issuers should consider the implementation of a problem tracking or problem management systems. Problem tracking provides continual analysis of problem-related customer contacts, potentially helping issuers identify and prioritize processes that can minimize the occurrence of problems. Problem management may include multiple inputs, such as problem contact data, survey data and employee feedback, and is designed to guide issuers on the development of systems to both prevent problems from occurring, and to maximize the effectiveness of resolving problems that do occur.
There was an article in American Banker last week titled “Big Ideas for Banks in 2014”, and one of the topics focused on the importance of retaining talented employees at bank branches. The article mentioned that high levels of employee turnover can hurt the ‘relationship’ between customers and the bank, which in turn can impact the bank’s ability to retain accounts.
This theme was also very evident in JD Power’s 2013 Small Business Banking Study (released in October 2013). Analysis of study data found that 43% of small business customers had their account manager changed during the past 12 months, and of those, 13% report that their account manager changed two or more times.The impact on satisfaction is significant, as shown in the chart below.
More importantly, turnover of small business account managers can also have a significant impact on financial performance. Study data clearly shows that small business customers who experience account manager turnover report lower levels of intended loyalty and share of wallet held with the institution. Turnover of account managers also drives an increase in reported problems, which can also be costly for financial institutions through the allocation of valuable resources and labor time associated with problem resolution.
But while an ideal scenario is for financial institutions to keep account manager assignments stable over time, in reality, changes will occur for a variety of reasons. In those cases, there are some best practices that financial institutions can follow that may mitigate the negative impact of account manager changes:
First, it is important that institutions act quickly when account management changes. Customers who are affected by a change should be notified as soon as possible and introduced to their new account manager. Delaying the notification can ultimately have a negative impact on customers’ overall banking experience, especially customers who attempt to contact their account manager and learn they are no longer there.
Second, it is critical that newly assigned account managers reach out to their customers and schedule a time to meet with them. During this meeting, it is important for the new account manager to establish an understanding of the customer’s needs and expectations (e.g., how often customers want to meet, what communication method customers prefer).
Third, new account managers must ensure they are providing the most appropriate solutions based on the customer’s business needs. They must be responsive to customer contacts, responding on the same day of the contact, if possible, and proactively reaching out to customers at least once every three months.
Retail banking customers in Canada have high expectations when it comes to using technology to conduct their banking business. Banks may not be meeting these expectations, especially in mobile, which may be driving the lower ratings for innovation provided by customers. According to our J.D. Power & Associates 2013 Canadian Retail Banking Customer Satisfaction StudySM, in 2013, 58 percent of customers perceive their bank as being technologically innovative, down from 66 percent in 2012.
While mobile penetration is not catching on as fast in Canada, compared with the United States (8% vs. 18%, respectively) banks could help raise mobile banking penetration and customer satisfaction by improving their mobile offerings. Providing a mobile banking option is critical in migrating routine transactions, especially deposits, out of the branch, helping to reduce bank costs while providing convenience for customers.
According to our study, during the past 12 months, mobile banking customers in Canada have used mobile to conduct a banking transaction 33 times, on average, compared with 51 times in the United States. Transactions may include making a deposit, transferring money from one account to another, finding a location, checking an account balance or paying a bill, depending upon the services offered by the bank.
A decision to switch banks is often driven by a mix of frustration with the previous bank and attractive offerings from the new bank.
Attracting new business within the retail banking industry is unique. While there are several variables that can “pull” customers toward a new bank, data from our J.D. Power and Associates 2013 Retail Banking Satisfaction StudySM has found that customers generally will not switch banks unless they are also “pushed” away from their prior relationship.
While poor service and high fees are most likely to push customers away, branch convenience, promotions and recommendations help to attract customers to a new bank.
What are you doing to protect your current relationships?
As the retail banking landscape continues to evolve, banking organizations need to always be tuned in to what customers expect from their bank and how they can provide them with a more satisfying banking experience.
As our J.D. Power Retail Banking Satisfaction Study moves to quarterly fielding and reporting for the 2014 study, banks are now better able to track their success with satisfying customers throughout the entire year!
The first quarterly wave of the 2014 Retail Banking Satisfaction Study was fielded in April 2013 and will be published on Tuesday, July 23rd.
We invite you to join us for a complimentary webcast during which we will discuss key findings from this study and address the following topics:
- How customers are interacting with their bank
- Trends in customer satisfaction and loyalty
- Changes we are seeing since the publication of the 2013 results
Date: Wednesday, July 24
Time: 2:00 – 3:00 PM ET