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The ‘personal touch’ still key to improving retail banking experience

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17th Dec 2014
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Many of the UK’s leading retail banks may see a future reliant on closing more high street branches, but new research suggests consumers think otherwise.  

Findings from a study of eight national retail banks by Market Force show 18% of the 4,245 consumers surveyed had visited a branch within the past 90 day to speak with an advisor, and 57% had completed a transaction with a teller.

And the need for more digital services does not seemingly feature as a critical aspect for consumers remaining loyal to their banks, with ease of doing business, a feeling of trust, a focus on financial well-being, the bank’s reputation and location convenience all ranked higher in terms of importance.

Despite this, Market Force’s survey suggests banks need to improve the customer experience within their branches, with 25% of respondents stating they had recently had a poor experience with a banking advisor.

Worryingly, customer satisfaction and loyalty levels remain relatively low in the sector. Following a study in September by MoneySavingExpert.com that showed all but First Direct delivering above satisfactory customer service, Market Force’s research states that 24% of respondents are dissatisfied with the service they receive from their primary retail bank and that 30% are unlikely to recommend them to other people.  

Surprisingly, given the number of job cuts and bank closures it has undertaken in recent months, customers of Lloyd’s Bank were the most satisfied with the experience with the bank, with 61% of Market Force’s respondents giving a top box satisfaction score. Its nearest competitor, Nationwide Building Society came in second with 55%.

“We found that one in four consumers have a very mediocre experience with their primary retail bank,” said explains Cheryl Flink, chief strategy officer for Market Force.

“This leaves retail banks vulnerable to consumers switching brands when rivals offer promotions and incentives. To increase satisfaction and stop switching, banks need to focus on creating trust and a sense that they are increasing the consumers’ financial wellbeing. Focusing on the personal touch of the advisory experience is key to creating both loyalty and recommendations.”

Further proof that banks need to focus on the bricks-and-mortar experience as well as the digital one comes with the fact that 25% of consumers are uninterested in the mobile apps their banks use, with 49% of those ranking the lack of benefits it offered as reason for not downloading, with 28% ranking security concerns as the reason.

Only 4% of consumers report using a digital wallet, but 91% of consumers are likely to investigate them in the near future.

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