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.
With channel usage continuing to evolve within the retail banking and small business banking industries, it is important for banks to focus on delivering a consistent experience across all customer touch-points. Customers interacting with the bank via the website or call center should receive the same level of high-quality service they receive at a branch, and vice versa. However, analysis of data collected by J.D. Power finds plenty of room for financial institutions to further improve the consistency of cross-channel interaction.
One key example is with regards to Problem Resolution. As displayed in the chart below, small business banking customers report considerable differences in their experience depending on the channel used for resolving a problem. While Problem Resolution satisfaction is highest when interacting with branch personnel (tellers, business bankers and managers), there is a steep decline when dealing with call center and online representatives.
Data in the chart above is from the 2014 J.D. Power Small Business Banking Satisfaction Study, but it is important to note that similar discrepancies in cross-channel interaction are evident in all financial services studies conducted by J.D. Power (retail banking, mortgage and investment). And these discrepancies are not always related to Problem Resolution, as many other aspects of the banking experience are also prone to cross-channel inconsistency, such as:
-Clarity of account information
-Method of accessing secure website (PC vs. tablet. vs. Smartphone)
As identified in the 2014 J.D. Power Small Business Banking Satisfaction Study, one key aspect of the small business banking experience is the relationship with an assigned account manager.
When an account manager is assigned to a small business client, building a strong relationship becomes vital. Ideally, the account manager becomes viewed as a ‘trusted advisor’, which can help the bank maximize the ROI (return-on-investment) of assigning account managers to small business clients. In addition to having a significant impact on customer satisfaction, account managers that are viewed as a ‘trusted advisor’ can also drive increased loyalty and deepen the share-of-wallet customers hold at the bank.
Furthermore, the negative impact of not being viewed a trusted advisor is profound, as satisfaction levels are actually lower than when no account manager is assigned at all (643 vs. 723, respectively, on a 1,000-point scale).
Data from the Small Business Satisfaction Study also identifies clear steps that small business account managers can take to develop a strong relationship with their clients and improve the perception of them as a trusted advisor, including:
-Take time to engage clients and understand their business
-Initiate contact with clients throughout the year to discussed needs and/or recommend solutions
-Promptly reply to any inquiries from clients and show ‘concern’ for their needs
The 2014 J.D. Power Small Business Banking Satisfaction Study was released on October 28th, 2014.
Financial institutions often have staffing and queueing models in-place to minimize customer wait times and improve the efficiency of interactions. However, there are still instances where customers are forced to wait in-line at a branch or are placed on-hold before speaking to a call center representative. When traffic is high and customer wait/hold times are necessary, financial institutions can offset wait-time dissatisfaction by providing quality service once the interaction begins.
For example, the chart below looks at call-center satisfaction among credit card customers that waited at least five minutes before speaking to a call center representative. On average, all credit card customers waiting five minutes before speaking to a rep. have a satisfaction score of 775 (on a 1,000-point scale). However, when a customer waits five minutes and is then greeted in a friendly manner by their call center rep., satisfaction increases to 795. And when a customer waits five minutes, is greeted in a friendly manner and the phone rep had their account information ready prior to joining the call, satisfaction increases further to 827. Finally, satisfaction increases even more when the rep. offers additional assistance and thanks the customer for their business – when all four best practices displayed in the chart below are provided, satisfaction among customers waiting five minutes increases from 775 to 835.
Source: 2014 J.D. Power Credit Card Satisfaction Study
Similarly, among retail banking customers, simply greeting customers as they enter the branch can significantly improve satisfaction with wait-times in the teller line. In the chart below, satisfaction among customers who waited 3-4 minutes but received a greeting when entering is 8.60 on a 10-point scale, which is higher than customers that did not have to wait but did not receive a greeting when entering the branch (8.39).
Source: 2014 J.D. Power Retail Banking Satisfaction Study
Each year, J.D. Power surveys over 80,000 retail banking customers as part of the annual Retail Banking Satisfaction Study. The study is conducted via four quarterly fielding waves.
While the primary focus of the study is the customer experience and it’s impact on satisfaction and loyalty metrics, J.D. Power also collects and analyzes data related to consumer sentiment (i.e. ‘your outlook for our economy and ‘your personal financial outlook’).
Data from the first two fielding waves of the 2015 Retail Banking Satisfaction Study (collected in April 2014 and July 2014) finds that the outlook for the American economy continues to trend upward. In fact, there has been a consistent improvement in economic outlook since 2011, as the country moves further past the economic distress that originated in 2007/2008.
However, it is interesting to note how perceptions of the country’s economic outlook varies across the different geographic regions:
California customers are currently most optimistic, while customers in the South Central region are least optimistic.
Over the past 18 months, the outlook for the economy has improved the most among customers in the Northwest region, and improved the least among customers in the Southwest region.
Since 2011, the California and Northwest regions have seen the greatest improvements while the South Central region has seen the smallest improvement.
For reference, the regional definitions associated with the Retail Banking Satisfaction Study are displayed in the graphic below.
Based on data from the 2014 J.D. Power Primary Mortgage Servicer Satisfaction Study, the percentage of customers reporting a ‘problem’ with their servicer has declined slightly over the past year (25% reporting a problem vs. 27% in 2013).
Across the individual problem types, there were noticeable reductions in problems such as:
Escrow account information
Conversely, there was a considerable increase in the percentage of fee-related problems reported by mortgage customers (17% vs. 3% in 2013). In response to this, mortgage servicers must ensure that their customer service representatives are well-educated on fee-application policies and are also provided a level of ‘empowerment’ that will allow them to resolve inquiries during the initial contact from a customer.
And while fees are now the most commonly reported problem, it is also important to note that the ‘negative impact’ of fee problems in the mortgage servicing industry is less profound than other types of problems experienced (-22 index points). Perceived ‘customer service’ (-212 index points) and ‘loan modification’ (-132 index points) problems are most impactful, providing mortgage servicers with further evidence of the need to ensure high quality and consistent customer service.
Data from the J.D. Power 2014 Self-Directed Investor Satisfaction Study finds that customer satisfaction can be significantly impacted by improving the awareness and usage of website functionality.
For example, ensuring that customers are aware of ‘financial planning tools’ can improve Website satisfaction by 87 index points (on a 1,000-point scale). Taking it a step further, ensuring that customers actually use ‘financial planning tools’ can drive an additional improvement of 28 index points.
Awareness of website features can also vary widely across the different firms measured in the study. Therefore, it is critical for each firm to understand where their customers may require additional education on website functionality or additional encouragement to actually use certain features.
For firms that have already invested valuable resources in the development of website functionality, it is critical for them to educate their customers on the available offerings and encourage usage. Failure to do so may impact the ROI (return on investment) they receive from expenditures dedicated to the website. Effective marketing campaigns, website tutorials and personal demonstrations are some methods available to firms looking to increase website awareness and/or usage.
In an ideal scenario, credit card issuers would excel at servicing all aspects of the customer experience. However, data from J.D. Power’s Credit Card Satisfaction Study consistently finds that every credit card issuer has both strengths and weaknesses with regards to the level of service provided to their customer base.
And because no issuer has unlimited resources to devote towards improving the customer experience, determining which initiatives should receive top-priority becomes an important piece of strategic planning.
The 2014 Credit Card Satisfaction Study has identified 12 ‘Key Performance Indicators’ (KPI’s) which represent service behaviors that have the greatest individual impact on customer satisfaction. In other words, “if you can’t do everything right, make sure you are doing these things right.”
As a whole, the industry struggles most with educating customers on card terms (i.e. rates, fees, etc.) and simplifying the login process for online account access. Only 50% of credit card customers completely understand their credit card terms, and only 53% of customers report that it is very easy to login to their account. It is also important to note that these are two of the most impactful KPI’s, based on their potential impact on overall satisfaction.
The KPI performance of each individual card issuer varies widely, and each has a unique set of strengths and opportunities. In order to successfully prioritize any investments towards improving customer satisfaction, it is important for each issuer to fully understand which of their metrics have the greatest room for improvement while also understanding the potential ‘impact’ of each metric.
Data from the J.D. Power 2014 Retail Banking Satisfaction Study finds that the industry continues to improve upon their ability to prevent problems. In fact, overall problem incidence has declined every year since 2010.
However, data also finds that problem incidence tends to be highest among retail banking customers that are both ‘young’ and ‘wealthy’. For example, over one-fourth (26%) of Affluent Gen Y customers have experienced a problem with their personal banking institution in the past 12 months.
Perhaps more importantly, these young and wealthy customers are less tolerant of perceived ‘problems’ with their current institution – when a problem occurs, they are considerably more likely to say that they ‘definitely/probably will switch’ banks in the next 12 months.
Young customers, such as those in the Gen Y age segment represent tremendous ‘growth potential’ for financial institutions, particularly if they are already considered to be ‘Affluent’. It is critical for financial institutions to gain a deeper understanding of the problems that these valuable customers are most likely to experience and develop correction action plans to prevent additional problems in the future.