These ten least wanted attributes of their bank are not in any particular order, but they are consistently raised in the market research we conduct with bank customers.
#1. Long queues in the branch – at lunchtime or anytime
Bank customers intensely dislike queuing in a bank branch, particularly during their precious lunch hour. This is, after all, the only time that most customers can get to their bank before it closes at 4pm or 5pm in the afternoon. Unfortunately, it is also the time when many branch staff either take their lunch shift, or change shifts with other staff members.
#2. Long queues when calling their bank on the telephone
Some of the most irritating recorded words in the English language (which are not confined to banks) are “You call is important to us. Please hold while your call is forwarded to one of our service consultants.” Callers say that they wonder why they have to wait so long if their bank really regards them (or their call) with such importance. Indeed, once they have reached this roadblock on their road to completing their enquiry, these same words signal to the customer that they are likely to be kept waiting for a considerable length of time, regardless of how important their call is.
#3. Unhappy and unhelpful staff at the end of the branch or telephone queue
There is a direct relationship between the length of a bank queue and the exhaustion and distress of the bank staff serving at the end or front of that queue. Long queues signal to customers (often factually) that there are too few staff members to handle too many customers in that particular branch or call centre. Consequently, as their shift progresses, these branch (or telephone) staff members get more tired and cranky, and less willing or able to serve and to help.
The end result is that the queuing customers get equally tired, cranky, and hugely frustrated. And if this happens once too often, these customers will take their bank accounts elsewhere, to a happier place with happier staff members. (This means that too many branch staff or call centre staff cuts can be ‘a dumb way to do business’, and an excellent way to drive customers away.)
#4. Bank CEOs who position ‘increased efficiency’ as a customer benefit
Every time a bank CEO talks about staff cuts and other cost cuts (including using overseas call centres), and tries to position these as a move in the direction of ‘improved customer efficiency’, the customers of that bank interpret that announcement differently. They make a note to expect poorer and less personal service from that bank, particularly in branch, but also on the telephone.
They believe that what the bank CEO is really trying to say is “We’re going to introduce cost efficiencies, so that our shareholders will receive an even better return on their investment. We are hoping that our customers will support us in this move and will use more economical means to access their banking services”.
#5. Inconveniently located branches of their main bank
Business banking customers mainly, and personal banking customers occasionally, will switch to another bank if the bank they use the most (which they will normally identify as their ‘main bank’) is not located near their business or their place of work.
#6. A $2.00 transaction fee for using an ATM of another financial institution
Bank customers know that an interchange fee has to be paid between banks, and that this will usually cost them $2.00 if they do not use the ATM of the bank where they have their main everyday savings access account. This fee is greatly resented by bank (and other financial institution) customers, and most of all by those customers whose do not have convenient access to their own bank’s ATM, and who also usually (through having no income or a low income, or having higher expenses and larger debts to be repaid) are not able to maintain much money in their everyday account. (Often younger) customers make smaller withdrawals either to make their ‘pay last longer’, or to limit their spending, or to prevent friends and family borrowing money that they may never repay. They therefore resent the fact that when they make, for example, a $20 withdrawal from another bank’s ATM, it is actually worth only $18.00.
#7. A bounced cheque, followed by an overdrawn fee
Probably the most embarrassing experience for any bank customer (particularly a small business customer) is to have their cheque bounce, and without warning, because there are insufficient funds in their account. They often feel guilty that their payee is out of pocket. They also feel embarrassed that the payee may think that they are incapable of paying their bills, which in turn may bring the health of their business into question. Their embarrassment normally turns to anger when they are then charged an overdrawn fee of $35 or so. They will bear this charge once or twice, before some will walk away and join another bank (as this writer will do the next time he is charged $35 for being $6.50 overdrawn, which happened to match the transaction fees on his account in that month!).
#8. Additional credit is refused
Customers who have a long and satisfactory ‘history’ with their bank, and who are refused additional credit by that bank at the time they need it most, regard this behaviour or decision as a major betrayal of their relationship with that bank. It is seen as akin to not recognising, and therefore not showing any respect for, a close relative or friend. They cite instances where their bank had offered them credit when they were flush with funds and least needed that credit, then refused them credit when they most needed it (for example, to repay large credit card balances).
Some customers have been refused a smallish business loan one week, only to be offered a larger personal loan or credit card limit increase the next week, and both by the same bank!
#9. No care, all responsibility
If banks claim full responsibility for looking after their customers’ money, they should likewise offer to provide those customers with all the care they need in managing their finances. The reverse is one of the things that customers want least from their bank. Customers really appreciate some demonstration that their bank cares about more than just their money. Remembering the customer’s name is a good start. Actively helping the customer with their finances and their consequent quality of life is an even better way to foster a positive and lasting mutual relationship and appreciation. Helping the customer can be as simple as listening better to their needs and concerns, then helping the customer to satisfy those needs or to resolve those concerns.
#10. There is no-one locally with the authority to say ‘Yes’, and then to make it happen
Some of us are old enough to remember with gratitude our local, resident bank manager who gave approval ‘on the spot’ of our first personal loan or home loan or business loan (usually in that order). Now the actual truth of the situation may have been little different from today, where loan approvals have to be referred to a credit risk assessor ‘somewhere hundreds of kilometres away’, but at least our ‘local hero’ bank manager back then gave us the impression that he (usually, rather than she) was vested with full authority to make an instant decision that was to our benefit. While most borrowers much appreciate getting approval of whatever they are allowed to borrow (so long as it is at a fair interest rate), many borrowers -particularly those who own their own businesses – very much resent being ‘rejected’ by a remote lending manager who doesn’t know them personally, and who has no idea about their individual personal or business financial needs. The more often they are turned away by such a ‘stranger’, the sooner they are likely to seek out a bank where they can find and make a friend.