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As Go The Teller Transactions, So Goes Perception

Not sure if you really need to be sitting down or taking sedatives when I reveal the findings of a recent study: tellers have an affect on how consumers feel about their financial institution.

Who knew?

But before you dismiss the study, there is actually something of a cautionary tale to be found beyond that "finding." The study, "Customer Experience with Teller Transactions," which was released by Prime Performance, Inc. as part of a broader research report, revealed some other trends and consumer feedback that, if not breakthroughs, at least are reminders of some business basics that should drive decision-making, and offer up a bit of humility for a credit union community that too often boasts of its level of member satisfaction.

According to Prime Performance, the study found the net score among members when it comes to satisfaction with the teller service they receive is 91%. Not bad. But the comparable score for small-bank customers when asked to rate the teller service they receive was 92%. For the largest banks, the numbers weren't really bad either. The overall bank average was 87% satisfaction, with Wells Fargo coming in at 84%, BofA at 82%, and Chase coming at 77%.

Under Prime Performance's methodology, a net score is the percent of satisfied customers minus the percent of dissatisfied ones. A score of 100% is perfect.

According to the company, credit unions led all FIs in three categories:

• CU members are most likely to say they would recommend their credit union, with 87% of members saying they would and 2% saying they would not (next best-small banks, 82% and 2% respectively). These are essentially the industries' Net Promoter Scores.

• When asked the likelihood of making a move to another FI in the next 12 months, 88% of members said they are content to stay put, just ahead of customers of small banks (86%).

• With a net score of 64%, members showed the strongest response when asked how important their individual business was to their CU (next best-small banks, 52%).

In a released statement, Jim Miller, president of Prime Performance, observed, "Successful service depends on simple actions. Quick, accurate transactions are crucial, but most banks excel at this. So, it isn't a competitive advantage."

According to the research, the four paths from the teller action-to-satisfaction are:

• Transaction speed and accuracy. In a classic case of no one remembers what you do very well, but never forget what you don't do well, the study found a quick, accurate transaction satisfies 90% of consumers and displeases 1%. "However, slow and inaccurate transactions satisfy 27% of members/customers and dissatisfy 22%." (It's always that group in the middle who cite "indifference" when they head elsewhere.)

• Wait time. The net satisfaction score drops from 90% to 23% when members/customers wait too long for service. This occurs in 5% of teller transactions. Prime Performance reported that the net satisfaction score falls from 92% to 27% when consumers feel their time is not valued.

• Friendliness. About 90% of members/customers are satisfied-and 1% are dissatisfied-when tellers are friendly (yes, apparently some people actually are dissatisifed with friendliness). But unfriendly tellers cut the net score by 74%-to 15%. How do consumers define friendliness? They like to see a smile, receive eye contact and be greeted by name. And when leaving, like to be asked if there is anything else that they can help with. The study found consumers saying their name is remembered/used 59% of the time, on average.

Here's a couple of credit union-related news headlines of late from other parts of the world that could be misinterpreted. From the UK, the suggestion that perhaps one board has really begun to take itself too seriously: "Credit Union Makes A Move To Church." And from Ghana, a headline that must pain the CFO and baffle anyone who must now wonder why "credit" is in the name: "Credit Unions Are Not Meant For Loans."

Just when you thought every possible affinity group and organization in the country has been nabbed by some credit union for its FOM, Tullahoma, Tenn.-based Ascend FCU proves there are still groups to be had. In this case, it's not so much a field of membership, but a meadow of membership, and a forest, stream, and river, too.

The $1.4-billion Ascend has announced a partnership with the Nature Conservancy, which helps to protect 270,000 acres in Tennessee and 120 million acres around the world, and which has more than one-million members.

Under the agreement, anyone who belongs to the Nature Conservancy can join the credit union (by bringing in their newsletter or membership card) and join Ascend for five bucks. Those who are not already members of the Nature Conservancy can join at any Ascend branch for $25, and if not already a member, join the credit union, too.

Bob Harvey, the president of Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union who has announced plans to step down later this year, has changed his LinkedIn profile to note he is now a "retiree intern."

Frank J. Diekmann can be reached at fdiekmann@cujournal.com.

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