CSI: Customer Satisfaction

smileyA survey by Ernst & Young finds 63% of corporate executives say they are highly satisfied with the service they get from their core banking partners.  Do you know if your customers, especially your high value customers, would respond the same way?  And how about the other 37% – do you know what would make them more satisfied, or motivated to leave for a sweet talking competitor?

Most financial institutions really don’t know how satisfied their customers are, or how to effectively measure satisfaction, or what the benefit of doing so would be.  Here are a few things to think about if you’re wrestling with the right approach.

The first step in measuring customer satisfaction is to define your goals and what you plan to do with the information once you have it.  The following are a few examples of goals we frequently encounter:

Some of our clients want to be able to say that X% of their customers are satisfied or very satisfied and they want this percent to increase every year.  This statistic can be valuable for sharing with employees, shareholders, a reporter, and potential M&A candidates as long as it’s a number worth repeating.  A simple survey works well for this goal.

Many however, cast a wider net when measuring satisfaction by identifying and prioritizing issues like products, service quality, and general operations at their institution.  They use the information gathered in their strategic planning process and SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis to prioritize changes to better meet their customers’ needs.  This approach is more complex than the one described above, and it requires more upfront work to craft the appropriate questions to spark relevant responses.

Others measure satisfaction with a specific focus in mind, for instance, to help identify how customers describe their organization and its reputation, and how they compare to other financial institutions their customers use.  This information helps them craft their marketing messages and evaluate their brand.  Do they see and describe their institution the way customers perceive it?

Occasionally, folks will use satisfaction as a proxy for loyalty.  But positive satisfaction results may not be a good indicator of loyalty, as customers describing themselves as “very satisfied” have been known to leave their financial institution for a better rate, a special deal, or enhanced technology.

Once you’ve determined your goal, you must then define who you want to gather this information from.  In a perfect world, you would survey all your customers.  Because you probably don’t have the resources for a project of this scope, there is a need to prioritize who you want to hear from.  You might select by profitability, by product or product groupings used, by geography, or by any other mix of criteria depending on your overall objectives.

Now that you’ve defined your goals and who you want to hear from, how should you implement the survey to ensure objective results?  Will you use social media, mailed questionnaires, telephone surveys, or personal interviews? Will you catch customers while they’re in your branch?  How should the questions be structured and ordered? How many responses do you need?  The answers to these and other questions will be driven largely by your goals, your targeted customer segment, and your budget.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to measuring customer satisfaction.  However, if your goal is to gather objective feedback, it’s best to enlist a reputable third-party service provider to carry out the project.  Many customers will be reluctant to give candid feedback directly to their banker, especially loan customers who realize their future borrowing potential is in your hands.  In fact, small business owners have confided this concern to us, particularly when they’re looking to borrow again from their current financial institution.

These details shouldn’t discourage you from polling your customers.  More likely than not, they’ll appreciate your genuine interest in their opinions, and you’ll probably glean valuable insights about your market.  Just make sure to set the process up correctly to gain the most from your efforts.

If you’re thinking about polling your customers, we can help you define the right approach to accomplish your goals.  Contact me at 303-795-3539 orlauren@oconnellconsultinggroup.com.

P.S.  For the full survey by Ernst & Young on corporate banking, click here.


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