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Consumers want banks to concentrate on better connections between web and branch

New research from Fujitsu Services into the experiences of 2,500 retail financial services customers across Europe suggests that investments by financial services organisations in pilot mobile banking services could be missing the mark: what customers really want is the convenience and choice of the web, integrated seamlessly with face-to-face contact in high street branches.

When receiving support, the majority (65%) said that they now prefer online, with face-to-face contact in a branch (53%) a close second.

Call centre contact over the phone was third choice at 43%, while mobile services (Internet or SMS) came bottom of the list at just 5%.

Not only are the web and branch the most preferred options – there is a strong desire that the experience should not fall down between the two.

“Although much has been said in recent years about the importance of multi-channel integration, the survey suggests that integration is most critical between the two most used channels – internet and branch.

The other channels are important, and standards of service need to remain high, but there is less of an imperative for them to work with each other,” explains Andy Stewart, European strategy director, financial services, Fujitsu Services.

The research - carried out by TNS using focus groups and surveys in Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden – also suggests that technology driven services that are easy to use are even more important to the overall customer experience than security.

When asked about what inspired their loyalty, 37% of all respondents said that a good experience of automated services was most important, with less than half that number (18%) citing security of personal details as the chief factor.

“Offering self-service options is no longer a differentiator – it’s expected by all types of customers,” Stewart continues.

“It’s also expected to be easy and convenient – if online self-service doesn’t deliver then the consumer actually gets more frustrated and disappointed than if the option wasn’t there at all.”

The results of the customer survey were also used as the basis for interviews with senior executives at nine financial services companies across Europe.

While customers placed value for money (43%) and customer service (41%) at the top of their wish lists, financial service providers believe that the range of products – and the number of products that the customer has with one provider – has the biggest impact on their customers’ loyalty.

Customers disagree: the range of products scored as their joint lowest priority (important for 11% of respondents), along with brand reputation and provision of product information.

The survey also found that age, gender and income have a minimal effect on customer attitudes to financial services.

There was a high degree of consistency among age groups, sexes and income levels on a variety of areas.

For example, the profile of the purchase process was very similar with the age groups at the extreme ends of the market (18-25 and 50+) requiring most support during the ‘purchase decision’ phase.

The older group was more likely to require no support during the entire process.

Also, there was no distinction between age or income in terms of loyalty drivers – all age and income groups agreed that value for money and customer service were the key drivers.

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.