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They are the customers your bank is most likely to see up close and personal: the people who walk into a branch and interact with your tellers and local managers on an everyday basis. They’re probably the ones to provide the most feedback.

 

Yet, making decisions based solely on their habits, needs and suggestions is almost certainly the wrong move. It is also probably why two out of every five retail banking customers say their institutions don’t always meet their expectations, according to Informa’s SEA Score program.

 

Truth is, the motivations behind what drives a branch customer don’t translate well to overall expansion strategies and growth. In fact, programs meant to reach these customers, or changes made to accommodate them, may make it difficult to focus on the kind of customers you want rather than the ones you have.

 

First, remember that branches don’t represent what they did 15 or 20 years ago: a position for a bank brand in a community. When a branch closes, it’s no longer a sign that a bank is leaving a community. Rather, it’s a sign that the nature of the community has changed. Geography and community are no longer entwined. Customers can be loyal to bank brand and never set foot in a physical branch.

 

And that’s why the tried-and-true metrics bank executives use to assess their customers so often fail. Bank customers overwhelmingly view their banking relationship as transactional, not advice-based. Their transactions are happening everywhere, as almost every transaction that previously needed to be done in a branch can now be done anywhere. Even the Federal Reserve System reports more than half of smartphone users banking online. (One holdover is deposits, which represent the vast majority of branch-based transactions.) That means transactional customers have already largely left branches and those still visiting them are often older, more risk-averse and less likely to seek the financial advice and guidance – not to mention buy more products – which banks need for growth.

 

A branch customer’s promoter score, asking whether she would recommend a bank to a friend, isn’t necessarily the useful information you might be looking for. In fact, rather than find customers who can simply act as advocates for your bank branches, your metrics have to focus on targeting and winning customers who would only rarely set foot in a physical branch. Targeting – and winning – those customers has to be the No. 1 goal. The data and experiences you get from branch feedback, in that regard, rarely gives you insights on the majority of your bank’s customers and almost never gives you useful information on the customers you need. 

 

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 info@informars.com.

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