With public approval of the financial sector seemingly in a free-fall, should banks still care about customer satisfaction? Absolutely, concludes a recent study from J.D. Power and Associates and Novantas. Over 80 percent of the public agrees that the current state of the housing markets can be laid at the doorstep of the financial services sector, yet “customer satisfaction alone appears to drive 15-20 percent of growth performance for bank branches,” according to the study, with the “growth differential worth $50,000 to $90,000 of additional annual earnings per branch for above average satisfaction branches.”

This is real money in this time of strained balance sheets. When all the metrics are level—branches offering identical products at the same prices under the same brand, “the growth performance differential ranged from 2 to 5 percentage points. The average annual impact of this differential is approximately $90,000 per branch,” the study found.

“It is the wrong time not to be focused on the customer given this public tide of ill will,” says Rockwell F. Clancy, executive director of J.D. Power and Associates products and services. Banks must deliver more than just value, but also “empathy for those in trouble. and flexibility,” Clancy adds. “The economics are excruciating—a lot of bank capital has been wiped out.” As banks struggle to make their numbers quarter to quarter, and manage their cost side, they scrutinize their advertising, marketing and customer satisfaction budgets.

Banks should focus on one dimension of customer satisfaction and excel in that area, says Clancy. “There’s a halo effect. It’s very difficult to execute everything very well, and it’s not believable. Once you’ve built that lead, it’s hard for your competitors to overcome it.”

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