Business owners crave face-to-face interaction from their financial institutions, a new report from Stamford, Conn.-based research firm Greenwich Associates revealed.
The report, “Businesses Seek the Human Touch From Their Banks,” which is based on a June 2011 survey of 508 small businesses and mid-sized companies, explains that prior to the credit crisis, companies ranked the importance of Internet banking platforms as equal to or more important than branch personnel.
From 2009-2011, however, the percentage of small businesses that considered Internet banking the most important method of contact with their institution dropped from 24% to 18%; for mid-sized companies, that percentage fell from 25% to 21%.
Businesses also view the role of the relationship manager in higher regard than they did in 2009, Greenwich said. The percentage of small businesses that name their relationship manager as their most important point of contact at their financial institution increased from 48% to 53%; that percentage jumped from 60% to 71% for mid-sized companies, according to the report.
“Before the start of the crisis, it was easy for companies to put their bank relationships on autopilot,” Greenwich Associates consultant Duncan Banfield said. “Today, companies need help solving broader business problems, and our data shows that they have stepped up interactions with bank relationship managers as part of that effort.”
The Internet is, however, still the most frequently used banking channel among businesses, Greenwich noted, with 70% of small businesses and 84% of mid-sized companies saying they interact with their institutions via the Internet the most.
Their top Internet banking activities include looking into the status of unpaid checks, making payments, requesting copies of statements, viewing balance reports, issuing stop payment orders, adding or deleting employees from payroll and viewing images of paid checks.
Mobile banking accessibility is less critical for businesses, according to Greenwich’s research. Just one in five small businesses and mid-sized companies view mobile banking as an important feature in their banking relationship, the firm said.
Greenwich said its findings present institutions with an opportunity to provide ideas and advice, as well as build new levels of trust with their business account holders.
Just one-third of small businesses reported receiving advice on how to increase earnings during the credit crisis. Slightly more than half of mid-sized companies said their institutions initiated conversations about cash flow improvement, but 46% said they didn’t obtain the advice they needed, Greenwich said.
“We have identified an opportunity to provide added value to customers at a time in which client trust and loyalty remains tenuous,” Greenwich Associates consultant Pete Garrison said.