Optimizing the Frequency of Proactive Contact for Full-Service Investors

Full-service investment firms looking to maximize the ROI of proactive outreach to their clients should be aware that the ‘demand’ for proactive outreach varies considerably by demographic segment. In other words, developing proactive outreach programs should not be viewed with a ‘one-size-fits-at-all’ approach.

The graphic below, which is based on data from the 2014 J.D. Power Full-Service Investor Study, looks at investors that are ‘highly satisfied’ with the Account Offerings available at their firm. While highly satisfied ‘Affluent’ investors report an average of 9.9 contacts from their advisor, and 7.2 contacts from their firm, high satisfaction among investors in the ‘Mass Market’ and ‘Mass Affluent’ segments can be maintained with less frequent outreach.

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Understanding the differing levels of service that drive investor satisfaction may help firms create communication strategies that meet client needs, while also managing the costs associated with proactive outreach. It is also important to note that investors across different demographic segments have different preferences with regards to the channel used for communication, and the types of information that should be provided to them proactively.

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Satisfaction with Financial Services Providers Continues to Improve

Data from waves 1-3 of the 2014 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study finds that industry satisfaction (776 on a 1,000-point scale) has increased significantly since the 2013 study was published last August (767).

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This continues a trend seen in other 2014 Financial Services studies conducted by J.D. Power – the Retail Banking, Full-Service Investor and Self-Directed Investor studies all saw significant improvements in customer satisfaction.

The complete Credit Card Satisfaction Study, including all four waves of data collection, publishes on August 26, 2014.

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Opportunity for Financial Institutions to Improve Social Media ‘Shopping Experience’

Data from the J.D. Power 2014 Social Media Benchmarking Study (released in April 2014) finds that banks and credit card issuers can improve their social media presence as a potential method of driving new business. When compared to other industries measured in the study, banks and card issuers receive lower satisfaction scores related to the social media shopping experience. Currently, 36% of retail banking customers use social media as a method of gathering information (products, promotions, etc.), compared to 21% of credit card customers.

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It is also important to note, however, that banks and card issuers actually receive high satisfaction scores related to the servicing experience on social media. In fact, customer satisfaction with social media as a servicing channel is higher than all other channels commonly measured by J.D. Power (branch, website, mobile, ATM, call center).

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Minimizing Investor Dissatisfaction with ‘Poor’ Investment Performance

Data from the 2014 JD Power Full-Service Investor Satisfaction Study finds a significant increase in the number of investors reporting that their portfolio performance was ‘better-than-expected’ (driven by healthy market performance throughout 2013). Accordingly, overall investor satisfaction also improved significantly, as good financial performance tends to drive investor satisfaction.

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However, history tells us that market performance fluctuates and that a ‘downturn’ is likely at some point in the future. In preparation for this, financial institutions and advisors should identify behaviors that can help mitigate dissatisfaction with ‘poor’ portfolio performance. In turn, minimizing dissatisfaction may help prevent investor attrition and/or the transfer of assets to competitors.

Once the behaviors are identified, focus should be placed on implementing new processes and/or training programs to ensure that the institution and its advisors are capable of providing the optimal level of service to their clients.

Key methods of minimizing investor dissatisfaction with ‘poor’ portfolio performance include:

Building a strong ‘advisor-investor’ relationship

Developing a clear financial plan

Discussing and incorporating risk tolerance

Clearly communicating reasons for investment performance

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The Negative Impact of Mergers and Acquisitions

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.

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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).

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Building Investor-Focused Relationships

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.

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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.

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Does Customer Satisfaction Really Matter?

While all businesses would likely consider customer satisfaction a ‘nice to have’, many question whether investments towards improving the customer experience will actually result in a positive impact on the bottom-line. Across multiple industries, analysis of consumer data collected by J.D. Power shows a clear relationship between high customer satisfaction and improved financial indicators.

Specifically within the retail banking industry, highly satisfied customers tend to hold a greater share-of-wallet with the institution and also report significantly higher scores related to loyalty and advocacy.

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Improving ‘Engagement’ with Tenured Business Banking Customers

Data from J.D. Power’s 2013 Small Business Banking Satisfaction Study finds that Product Offerings satisfaction declines significantly as a customer’s tenure with the bank increases. Customer perception of product-related communication (or lack thereof) is a key driver of the satisfaction differences noted across different customer segments.

Analysis of customer verbatim comments may indicate that banks are more focused on communicating with newer business customers, in an attempt to ensure satisfaction and ultimately increase loyalty and cross-sell potential. Conversely, longer-tenured customers may feel ‘forgotten’ as the level (or quality) of communication received from their bank decreases over time.

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It is important for financial institutions to stay in-touch with their business customers, particularly those with longer tenures, as those customers appear to be more critical of their bank’s attempts to communicate with them. And it is especially important to focus on engaging tenured business banking customers that DO NOT have an assigned account/relationship manager.

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‘Personal Touch’ significantly impacts satisfaction with mortgage origination

While data from JD Power’s Primary Mortgage Origination Study has found that technology offerings (the ability to apply, submit documents, track status online) can raise customer satisfaction, it is important to note that customers still desire a ‘personal touch’ during the origination process.

Satisfaction is highest when customers work with one representative throughout the entire process. However, if a ‘handoff’ is necessary from one lender employee to another, it is critical to ensure that customers consider the transition ‘smooth’. Failure to ensure a smooth transition can significantly impact satisfaction and loyalty metrics, while also resulting in an increase in reported customer problems.

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The Impact of Fee Changes in Retail Banking

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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