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Customers Hold Grudge With Referrals Against The Banks That Blew Their Trust

“The banking industry as a whole still has a long way to go to rebuild its reputation and win back the advocacy of its customers.”
Peter Kirk — Accenture

According to a study from Accenture, banks still have a long way to go to repair and improve relationships with their customers. The study suggests consumers who got burned in the financial meltdown are holding a grudge against the banks they blame for today’s economic mess.

Accenture’s research revealed that banking customers are less likely to recommend their provider than last year, despite being more satisfied with the service they received.

It’s as if consumers are saying, “Yes, my bank did a better job. But I’m still very mad at them.”

What’s intriguing is that a similar study conducted in the U.S. by Prime Performance found that consumers rated their individual experiences with financial providers very highly, even though overall trust in the banking industry is down.

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More Satisfied… But Less Likely To Recommend

Accenture’s research, which encompassed 4,000 checking customers in the UK, showed that customer satisfaction levels in retail banking improved over the past year. Accountholders satisfied who say they are satisfied with their bank rose from 56% to 60%.

The number of customers complaining about their bank dropped from 17% to 13%. Among those customers with a complaint, more customers were satisfied with how their problem was handled, up from 34% to 39%.

Despite these improvements, the survey revealed that the number of customers who would recommend their bank to family and friends has fallen over the past year, down from 61% to 47%.

This wasn’t the only bad news the Accenture study contained. Only two out of five customers surveyed said they felt their bank was fair and transparent, and the same number said they were getting good value for their money.

“While customers may think their own bank is doing a decent job, the banking industry as a whole still has a long way to go to rebuild its reputation and win back the advocacy of its customers,” said Peter Kirk, author of the Accenture study and head of their UK banking division.

“In order to rebuild relationships, banks need to invest more in improving customer service,” Kirk added. “They should also look at rewarding customers through loyalty schemes.”

At least Kirk sees a silver lining. “These results show that the banks’ efforts to fix underlying service issues and engage better with their customers are working.”

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Good News: Customer Switching Declines

“There is a clear problem that customers perceive the switching process to be overly cumbersome.”

Accenture’s survey showed that switching levels among UK banking customers declined in 2011. Only 11% of respondents said they had recently switched one or more products from their bank, compared with 16% a year ago. Similarly, research from Prime Performance found that U.S. consumers said they were less likely to switch… but that was back in the first half of 2011. Now if Prime Performance repeated their U.S. study today, in the wake of the turbulent year that left big banks marred, these numbers would be radically higher.

Of the 6% who switched checking accounts in the Accenture study, one in four encountered problems with the process. Nevertheless, a large majority felt switching was still worth it, and 75% said they were pleased they made the switch.

Among those who did not switch their checking account, 90% said they had no desire to change. The remaining 10% wanted to switch but did not do so, with half saying they thought the process would take too long.

“With nearly a quarter of those switching their current account still experiencing problems, the industry certainly needs to tackle the shortcomings in the system to create fluidity in the market,” Kirk said. “There is a clear problem that customers perceive the switching process to be overly cumbersome, which does not necessarily match reality, and this needs to be addressed.”

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