Retail banking has particularly been affected by the shift to the digital delivery of products and services, given its sheer magnitude and importance.
The global coronavirus pandemic significantly accelerated banks’ adoption of digital channels and led to critical behavioral changes for customers. Banks now need to determine which shifts are here to stay and which could revert, to some degree, to pre-pandemic levels.
Strategic Resource Management conducted a detailed survey in July 2021 that offers a snapshot of customer attitudes at a particularly interesting moment in time. Sixteen months of dealing with Covid-19’s realities had created a degree of equilibrium; thoughts of a return to “normal life” had begun to enter the conversation. This cross-section provides a view into the likely permanence of customer mindsets, helping financial institutions better understand customers’ perceptions of, and feelings toward, the institutions with which they bank.
Several noteworthy takeaways:
- US financial institutions performed well in loyalty and engagement, though credit unions performed the best. Although the roughly 5,000 credit unions in the United States comprise a small number of overall banking assets (8% based on June 30, 2021, data from the credit union and banking regulators), its member ranks remain exceptionally loyal and engaged. While some community banks enjoyed similarly high ratings, other institutions should take note of credit unions’ success and consider following some of their tactics.
- Charlotte, North Carolina-based Truist Financial Corp. ranked very high for customer perceptions of care, value for money and understanding customer needs. The product of a 2019 merger between BB&T Corp. and SunTrust Banks, the $541.2 billion bank embarked on a significant brand awareness campaign that emphasized financial wellness and a holistic level of care for the customer’s financial life. While the largest banks often excel in terms of resources and digital tools, they are frequently viewed as more transactional. Truist does not fit this stereotype – its customer ratings demonstrate that they place great importance on emotional connection, similar to credit unions and community banks.
- Chime ranked poorly on engagement and loyalty. While other digital brands lagged in this area, Chime ranked at the bottom of both dimensions. It has done an excellent job of building market awareness and initial enrollments but has fallen short converting new customers into more meaningful relationships. The company faced backlash last summer following reports that it suddenly closed several customer accounts. Few respondents treat Chime as their primary transaction account; the absence of a branch network may be a contributing factor. But the company could still shift public perception. By teaming with a brick-and-mortar presence — mimicking PayPal Holding’s approach in partnering with Discover Financial Services to achieve point-of-sale ubiquity — Chime might overcome concerns about access.
- Great service remains the biggest factor behind customer loyalty. When asked for their top reason for choosing and staying with a given institution, great service led the pack. It outpolled product quality, ease of use and personal recommendations. Beyond that, subtle yet interesting differences emerged. Location, value for money and loyalty programs moved up the pecking order when customers decided to stay with a provider. The order of “reputation and trust” and “doing what they say” swapped positions — arguably because customers can now assess an institution’s behavior firsthand rather than relying on reputation. This may also explain why brand values gained prominence in the research.
Attracting and retaining customers is instrumental to a financial institution’s relevance. It’s what ultimately fuels its success. Banks must determine why customers partner with organizations, why they stay with them and why they leave. Taking this into consideration and keeping a close pulse on what behavioral changes are permanent will help financial institutions form stickier, longer-lasting customer relationships.