WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif.-There are five key factors drive bank customer satisfaction, and most top-performing banks are doing well in all but one, according to J.D. Power and Associates.

Not surprisingly, banks dropped in fee satisfaction, a 31-point decline to 625 on a 1,000-point scale (see related story), but most top performers are doing well in problem-prevention, facilities, live phone services, and branch greeting. J.D. Power refers to these metrics as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

According to Michael Beird, director of banking services practice, the elite banks consistently miss scoring well in less than three KPIs. "The more KPIs you miss, the lower your satisfaction score is."

The metric that has the biggest impact on the overall satisfaction rating, according to Beird, is problem resolution. "They key here is preventing problems before they happen," said Beird during a recent Bankerstuff webinar.

But what may surprise some, Beird noted, is that branch appearance comes in second for affecting customer satisfaction. "This reinforces the importance of looking at the security at your branches and their look and feel."

Beird said that key aspects of look and feel are exterior elements-such as the parking lot, trash picked up, and the building's coat of paint-as well as the interior. "Make sure the carpet is clean. Many of these little things we become desensitized to as branch managers."

Looks Matter

Emphasis has been placed by banks on the number of branches and the branch hours, noted Beird, who said that branch appearance "dwarfed" those elements within the facilities rating. "The appearance of the branch impacts 34% of the facilities customer satisfaction score. It is as much about making sure your branches are attractive as it is staying open later and on weekends."

Customers are certainly satisfied when more branches are near where they live and work, however steps can be taken to improve customer satisfaction if a financial institution does not have the bricks and mortar. "If you have only one branch in the community you have not lost the satisfaction game," Beird said. "But you do have to make sure that the appearance of your branch is above criticism. Make sure it is clean, stylistically appealing, and has good security elements, lighting, and signage. If you have only one branch, it has to hit a home run."

Despite the focus on mobile banking and emerging payment technologies, live phone customer service is next in line at impacting satisfaction scores, pointed out Beird. "It still goes back to the fact that the standard phone call is a critical point of contact for most customers."

Beird added that banks that fared well in this category typically make sure staff are always pleasant, thank customers for their business, and have customer information ready or pull it up immediately when the customer calls. "The customer does not have to give a lot of information, or give information over and over again."

Fee structure came in fourth, and Beird noted that keeping fees stable is one of the most the most important steps banks can take to keep customers happy (see related story).

The final of the top-five KPIs is the branch greeting, which Beird reminded does not mean having a dedicated greeter in the lobby. He explained that when front-line staff simply acknowledge someone when they come in, whether that be with a glance and a smile, or letting them know they will be with them soon, improves satisfaction scores. "The average satisfaction score is 768 (out of 1,000) when someone is greeted versus 693 when they are not," Beird explained.

A greeting even improves customer tolerance for a longer wait in line. "The average satisfaction score is 734 for those who had zero wait time but were not greeted," shared Beird.

"Yet customers who were greeted and waited six to 10 minutes had higher satisfaction scores than those who had zero wait time but were not greeted. This reinforces that before you spend money on hiring a new teller to drive down wait time, some simple additional steps, like a greeting, might mitigate your problems."

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