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Bank customers have changed dramatically over the past decade, as has their relationship with the banks they use.

Yet, the way banks study and evaluate these very complex customers hasn’t kept pace. That means the data banks are collecting on customers won’t help them to make decisions on service now or in the future.

The branch level is the easiest place to see how consumers have changed their interactions with banks. Branches used to be the primary touchpoint between the customer and the bank. First ATMs and then the Internet changed that. Branches became the place where one transaction – deposits – took place, and that represented the lion’s share of a bank’s physical interaction with its customers.

Physical presence is often misinterpreted as “loyalty,” the way many banks assess customer satisfaction and shape strategy. But loyalty is a flat metric for a complex customer. Looking at traffic at branches or surveying people who use branches frequently are not good measures of total customer experience.

Most banks still measure customer satisfaction through promoter scoring that looks at loyalty. Well, chances are the customers going to your bank branches are loyal, based on a promoter score. At the same time, though, that same customer could have a small business loan at another bank and a home equity line of credit at a third bank. In all likelihood, they also have a credit card somewhere else. Four different banks for someone viewed as “loyal.”

What’s lost in measurement is the “why.” Why do customers choose to do standard banking transactions at a certain bank, but would never dream of using that same bank for a mortgage? Why would someone who has a 20-year banking relationship at a local, medium-sized bank keep a business account at a national bank, even though fees are higher?

It’s the “why” that drives business. Do customers crave a deeper relationship, one that goes beyond simple transactional business, to deeper financial guidance and advice? What is needed to energize a customer to use more services? Why are they making the decisions they make, and how do you use that thinking to frame your marketing? Most measures of customer service and loyalty don’t come anywhere near answering the questions you need to build a strategy.

Lastly, most metrics are agnostic about demographics, which isn’t helpful. Baby Boomers treat all business transactions, and banking in particular, much different than Millennials. Millennials are more likely to jump to another bank if they receive a better offer. Older consumers are likely to take existing relationships into consideration. Most data collection efforts, though, don’t take that information into account.

Until data complexity catches up with consumer complexity, banks aren’t getting the best picture of their own customers.


For more information on Informa Research Services' customer engagement and loyalty research and The SEA Score™ program, contact us at 800.848.0218 or email

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