Warning Flag: Banks Gaining in Consumer Satisfaction
The latest University of Michigan American Consumer Satisfaction Index shows commercial banks reaching a new high of 77 on a scale of 100, continuing a steady upward trend that started in 2000. Wachovia topped the list at 80, followed by JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, each at 72.
The index, produced by U of M's Ross School of Business in partnership with the American Society for Quality and CFI Group, looks at a wide range of retail and financial sectors. The study didn't include credit unions, but Sheri Teodoru figures the research does offer some pointers for credit unions. Teodoru is partner and program director at CFI.
"What's going on with the banking industry is a lot of the bigger players have finally figured out how to navigate mergers and acquisitions," Teodoru says. "Those mergers and acquisitions were happening pretty much daily, and typically customers sort of take a back seat and are often neglected during that process. It appears some of these big folks have awakened and are now focusing again on customer service and delivering quality products and services." Certainly the credit union industry has seen a record number of mergers. As this occurs, "You can't take your eye off the ball. If anything, that's the time you need to step up member service to make sure your members don't feel neglected, lost or confused. "Companies that forget about their customers are punished. We have a significant body of literature that shows the link between customer satisfaction and financial performance. There is a risk to making changes and not checking in with your customers on a regular basis." When credit unions were small, that happened in the course of business. Tellers often knew members by sight. They heard any complaints. A member wondered if everything turned out well at Alice the Teller's wedding. Today, with credit unions serving thousands of members and many transactions taking place over the Internet, measurement is much more difficult. As credit unions become larger, she believes it's important not to fall into the trap she's seen in financial services as well as other industries. That pitfall is simply losing sight of the customer The definition of customer service has changed, Teodoru continues. Customer service delivery is still paramount in retaining customers. But what customers expect is different. For banks and credit unions, it's no longer good enough to simply have an adequate number of tellers. The concept of meeting people's needs hasn't changed, but those needs may be different. "Member service and satisfaction has always been very high for credit unions," Teodoru says. "This study shows banks have stepped up their game. That tells credit unions you need to make sure you don't get left behind." Continue to have a dialogue with your members, she stresses. Members needs and expectations change, and you must be in front of that. Have your own measurement programs in place. Teodoru says the ACSI study shows customer satisfaction is a constantly-changing challenge. "It's incredibly true that [satisfaction] scores can dramatically change. You look at scores for many of the large banks over time and see some pretty dramatic jumps. While the ACSI does not measure credit unions per se, if for example a credit union cut its member service staff in half, I would absolutely think the scores are going to change," she suggests. "I think it would be a big mistake to look at scores from two or three years ago and think they're applicable today. As the market changes, as the members change, as the credit union itself changes, it's important to keep those things in sync." --firstname.lastname@example.org