Many banks put off investing in expensive new technology, fearing customers might not be ready to accept it. Now a leading researcher of consumer attitudes, NFO Worldwide Inc., says it can eliminate such fear by providing insight into a particular bank's client expectations.

PSI Global of Tampa, FL, an NFO unit serving the research needs of 25 of the 27 largest banks, tracks consumer interest in technology-based services and shows banks how to overcome consumer inertia in using technology. Further, Prognostics of Palo Alto, CA, another NFO unit, does research that compares the satisfaction customers get from a bank's services to the satisfaction gained from competing banks' services.

And NFO expedites its research analysis by conducting consumer surveys on the Internet, which can reduce a traditional eight-week survey to just eight days. By taking focus groups out of hotel rooms and onto the Net, NFO provides a broader sampling of opinions. "We have designed special software that allows us to gather information on the Web and then deliver the results via the Internet right onto the desktops of our client managers," says Charlie Hamlin, president of NFO's technologies group. He says NFO not only knows why consumers use interactive technology, such as PC banking, but also why they don't use it. "We try to build a total understanding of each community so that a bank can market to both interactive and non- interactive consumers."

Joe Majestic, PSI Global's vp of retail banking says, for example, "We have found that people who do PC banking transact twice as much as average consumers. So banks need to direct more traffic into electronic transactions."

-peterson tfn.com

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