|Local touch key for future, regardless of channel|
Banking customers in the United States prefer localized, personalized services to be at the center of their relationship with their financial services institutions, according to a new international study by British Telecommunications and Avaya, a provider of business collaboration and communications solutions.
The study—which reflects results of a survey of more than 2,000 financial services customers in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Spain—found that despite the growing use of telephone and internet banking in recent years, two-thirds (66%) of U.S.-based customers see their local branch as the most vital link with their bank—second only to cash machines.
The results indicate to financial services institutions developing multichannel customer service strategies that U.S. customers want the same personalized service that local branches deliver, regardless of whether the interaction is taking place in person, on the phone, or using the internet or a mobile device.
Looking to the near future, 32% of U.S. consumers would like to use web chat when browsing financial websites, 24% would be happy to use click-to-call, and 14% would like to use video chat. Mobile banking is gaining popularity as well, with more than one-quarter (27%) of respondents already trying some form of it and 34% of U.S. consumers eager to make mobile payments. The call center, however, remains the preferred first stop for resolving a complaint or issue.
Tom Regent, president, Global Banking & Financial Markets and Sales & Marketing, BT Global Services, says: "Despite this being a tough time for financial services institutions, these results show they can strengthen trust and build stronger relationships with their customers by delivering truly local and personalized services through every channel they have. Innovations in customer service technology can help them achieve this. Whether it's in the branch or through remote channels such as mobile banking, technologies now exist that can link up customers to the right people and the right information in a cost-effective way.
"We know financial services institutions want to give their customers the most rewarding and enjoyable experience possible, but banks in particular are facing some of the toughest challenges of any sector and they have to prioritize investments that deliver to the bottom line.”
The study found that 55% of U.S. consumers have a strong relationship with their bank. Seventy-four percent of U.S. consumers say good service improves loyalty, which is the highest of the four countries surveyed (71% for the United Kingdom, 66% for Spain, and 58% for Germany).
U.S. consumers also seemed more satisfied than other countries surveyed with customer service, with only 35% saying they wait too long on the phone to get through to a call center (versus 41% for the United Kingdom and 45% for Germany) and only 27% feeling that they wait too long to have a complaint resolved (versus 49% for Spain, 34% for the United Kingdom, and 31% for Germany).
Kevin Reilly, Global Financial Services Vertical leader, Avaya, says: "While the frequency of customers visiting the branch is declining, the importance of those visits is increasing. Customers are also very clear that they still want that personal service, tailored to their specific needs at the time regardless of the method or channel they choose. Mobile and smartphone apps can now offer unparalleled levels of personal contact between a financial institution and its customers. It's important to note, however, that inherent in the expanded opportunities to engage with a customer is also an opportunity to fail, especially if a consumer experiences inconsistent service and information when using different channels."
The research exposed further cultural trends, which suggests that the more technologically advanced consumers become, the less tolerant they're going to be of poor customer service in personal finance. The research found that:
• Spanish consumers are using mobile browsers, smartphone apps, email and text messaging for banking more than most—but they have to wait the longest to apply for a new account.
• Germans seem more focused on getting the best possible deal than quality of service.
• The United States has the most competitive market and U.S. consumers seem the most satisfied with service and interactions.
[This article was posted on May 1, 2012, on the website of ABA Banking Journal, www.ababj.com.]
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