Dissatisfied bank customers still remain loyal

Stephan Shakespeare
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LAST week we saw that Santander had a difficult 2010 in terms of customer perceptions, with poor service quality leading to customer dissatisfaction and driving down scores across all BrandIndex measures.

This week we ask whether that actually matters, as a new report from YouGov SixthSense into the customer journey suggests that customer inertia may give Santander hope.

Only 15 per cent of adults have changed their main bank in the past five years, and most of those have done so for lifestyle reasons.

The reason for this low customer churn is that 40 per cent of those that haven’t changed are “reluctant loyalists” – those who are not satisfied with their provider but remain loyal.

The concern remains, however, as the report reveals that among adults who have changed their provider in the past five years, the impact of positive reviews on financial websites (49 per cent), positive reviews in the personal finance pages of newspapers and magazines (40 per cent) and features in the best buy tables of price comparison websites (40 per cent) are strong.

Assuming their reluctant loyalists make their voices heard, Santander is likely to record poor reviews, but the main impact of this will probably be that the bank fails to attract new customers, rather than losing existing ones.

The conundrum for banks chasing Santander’s dissatisfied customers is that whilst it is customer service levels that drive satisfaction, it is the bank’s offerings that people look at when considering a new provider. “Better value for money” (50 per cent) and “bank charges” (49 per cent) both outperform “customer service” (42 per cent) as factors precipitating change.

The challenge, then, is first to overcome the inertia by playing on service dissatisfaction and then to show that they have better offerings than their competitors.

Stephan Shakespeare is founder and chief executive of YouGov.