Why you can’t always bank on your bank

Mobile apps are a critical factor in customer satisfaction. The data we’ve gathered at the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) proves its impact. 

But while brands are dedicating a lot of time and resources to the reliability and quality of their mobile apps, they have to remember that mobile is far from the only component that influences customer satisfaction. Just because people have their noses in their phones all the time doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate a good face-to-face experience.

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Banks are pivoting more toward digital, but are they going too far? Let’s dig into some of the data.

Shifting to digital too much?

As banks go increasingly mobile, elements linked to in-person customer satisfaction are taking a hit. 

For example, in 2018, Capital One sat near the top of the industry with an ACSI score of 81 (out of 100). This year, the bank sits among the leaders in customer satisfaction in mobile quality and mobile reliability. However, it’s near the middle of the pack in courtesy, branch speed, and wait time. 

The same goes for Chase and Citibank. Both scored well in mobile quality and mobile ease of use but ranked in the middle – albeit a bit higher than Capital One – in most in-person satisfaction benchmarks. 

The story is a bit different for Bank of America. It ranks toward the top for mobile reliability and range of mobile plan options, yet unlike Capital One, Citibank, and Chase, Bank of America is at the tail end of the spectrum for in-person customer satisfaction elements, including wait time, where it sits at the bottom of the industry by a wide margin. And unfortunately, unlike the other three banks, Bank of America had one of the industry’s lowest overall customer satisfaction scores last year at 76. 

Wells Fargo was the only national bank to fall below Bank of America, with a 2018 ACSI score of 74. Customers ranked the bank poorly across the board, particularly for its lack of policy options and competitive interest rates.

The in-bank experience is necessary

According to Mobile Ecosystem Forum’s 2016 Mobile Money Report, 61% of people surveyed use their mobile phones to perform banking activities and 48% use a dedicated app. And yet, 28% prefer bank branches for daily banking compared to the 26% who chose mobile.

You can use your mobile phone for nearly every kind of banking activity. You can check your account balance, deposit checks, transfer money, and even open credit, savings, and checking accounts. And yet, customers still feel inclined to visit their banks.

Industry executives recognize the importance of maintaining a brick-and-mortar presence despite an increased push toward digital. 

In 2018, Chase said it plans to open as many as 400 new branches, while Bank of America intends to open nearly 500. Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan even noted that 800,000 customers visit their banks every day, and 70% of the bank’s sales are done in person. 

And yet, given the importance of brick-and-mortar branches to Bank of America’s bottom dollar, the bank’s ACSI scores for in-person customer satisfaction are notably low. If Bank of America is betting on physical branches, it should do more to improve its scores.

Is the traditional bank model finished?

Some 49% of bank executives feel that the traditional branch-based model is done, according to a survey by The Economist. The reason? Digital.

Mobile offers customers speed, constant connection, and 24/7 access – everything they could hope for. Until, of course, it’s not.

But this is only a small piece of the puzzle. Retail branches are more than just a last resort for when customers are having technical issues with their devices. 

Face-to-face interactions are the biggest revenue drivers for banks. That’s why some of these banks are opening up new branches – especially in areas where they currently have little to no presence. Offering a sub-par customer experience would be counterproductive to this business model. 

Sure, other banks are closing branches and mobile is the major driver of high customer satisfaction. But as Wells Fargo Chief Financial Officer John Shrewsberry said, “branches play an important part in serving our customers and we will have as many branches as our customers want, for as long as they want them.”

Consumers might not always go to the bank, but they still like having the option. And they expect to have a quality experience while they’re there. Banks would be wise not to forget it.

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