How Banks Can Make It Better for Customers (and Themselves)
By: Brian O'Connell

NEW YORK (BankingMyWay) — Bank customers seem chronically unhappy with their financial institutions, particularly on such hot-button issues as big bank bailouts and high service fees.

More and more, financial consumers are voting with their feet and moving on from banks they believe underperform on customer service. A July study from cg42, a Wilton, Conn., management consultancy says that customers will pull out $92 billion in deposits from U.S. banks in the next year due to increasing dissatisfaction.

“Customers still feel that their financial institutions aren’t serving their best interests and they’re frustrated,” says Stephen Beck, founder and managing partner of cg42. “Comparing the brand vulnerability of big banks from 2011 to today shows that while the industry suffers from many of the same frustrations, institutions that addressed their customers’ concerns significantly improved their competitive position in 2013.”

So what can banks do to improve customers’ banking experiences? Industry experts point to a few emerging trends from institutions designed specifically to keep deposits where they are and bolster their relationships — and reputations — with customers:

Get face to face. To rebuild trust, there is a big push for banks to get employees in front of their clients, face to face, and begin rebuilding one relationship at a time. Even in the digital banking age, business customers still want to have face-to-face contact with their bank. “The only way to do that is to put feet on the street and begin having conversations with clients,” says Corey Ross, co-founder of Finagraph, a financial services technology company. “One important caveat is that the banker must come to the table with knowledge about the customer, which is why so many financial institutions have focused on increasing the business acumen of their bankers either through internal or external training programs.”

Bundle products and services. Banks should be offering bundled product offerings to increase the stickiness of the relationships. “This is attractive to customers who want one-stop shopping from their financial institution and is also an important factor in increasing the profitability of the relationship,” says Cheryl Abrahamson, managing director of BBI Financial, parent company to The Relationship Banking Academy.

Educate clients. Banks need to be experts who can help consumers solve financial problems. “Sponsoring educational opportunities and events for their clients on topics such as financial management, QuickBooks management and business succession and transition are all good ideas,” Abrahamson says.

These are just starting points for banks looking to improve their customer experience. But banks have to start somewhere — or risk losing billions in assets.

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