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Banks’ Relationships With Customers Under Growing Pressure in UK and Ireland, According to Accenture Survey


LONDON; – Banks’ relationships with their customers in the UK and Ireland are under increasing pressure several years after the financial crisis began – with loyalty, satisfaction levels and behavioral patterns posing new challenges, according to Accenture (NYSE: ACN) research.

Comparing the results of its survey of 2,500 current account customers in the UK and Ireland completed late last year with those of a similar Accenture survey of British current account customers conducted in 2007, Accenture found that:

· The number of British high street bank customers likely to purchase their next financial product from their current provider declined from 66 percent to 46 percent; and those who had actually purchased new products from their bank within a 12-month period fell from 29 percent to 22 percent;
· The number of British customers saying they were satisfied with their high street bank declined from 84 percent to 73 percent and those who would recommend their provider to family and friends fell from 64 percent to 58 percent;
· The percentage of customers who complained to high street banks increased from 14 percent to 17 percent, and one bank received complaints from nearly one-in-three customers over a 12-month period.

“These results provide further evidence that even several years since the financial crisis hit, the relationship between banks and their customers continues to decline,” said Peter Kirk, senior executive in Accenture’s Financial Services practice, and author of the research. “It appears that this is now influencing consumer behavior, with only a bare majority of high street customers likely to recommend their providerand customer defections continuing apace.”

According to the research, switching rates among British high street bank customers have remained significant. In the latest survey, 16 percent of respondents said they had recently switched one or more products from their existing bank and 14 percent said they planned to do so within 12 months. The rates were 14 percent and 13 percent, respectively, in 2007.

“Banks must stop and listen to their customers or they risk losing them to new entrants and other competitors,” Kirk said. “But our latest survey found that one in five customer complaints were poorly handled by the banks. Each of those instances represents a lost opportunity to repair a strained relationship.”

Low Loyalty among ‘New Generation’
Accenture’s latest survey suggests that banks throughout the UK and Ireland face significant pressures in developing relationships with their newest generation of customers. Respondents aged 18 to 24 were 50 percent more likely than others to move to another bank – with nearly one in five (19 percent) saying they planned to switch one or more products from their current bank within 12 months, compared to only 12 percent of older respondents who planned to make a switch.

The survey also found that the youngest group of customers was about 30 percent less likely to complain to their banks than others, with only 13 percent saying they had registered a grievance with their bank within 12 months – compared to 18 percent of older respondents. Customers aged 18-24 also placed more significance on value for money compared to their more mature counterparts who favored the promise of speedy and efficient service, according to the survey.

“With an emerging youth segment that is more likely to simply switch banks when they encounter a problem, rather than take time to complain about service, institutions must carefully analyze this group and adapt products, services and channels to interact with them on their terms,” Kirk said. “All the while, they must keep their more mature, loyal and communicative customers on their side.”

Self-Service Predominates
The survey found that more than two-thirds of survey respondents (69 percent) use Internet banking on a daily or weekly basis. This compares with 19 percent who use branches, seven percent who use mobile channels and six percent who use call centers with the same frequency.

“Three quarters of customers say they rarely if ever bank by telephone today. As traditional call centers become a channel for handling only complex banking matters, banks will have to take proper advantage of this shift -- just as they must adapt to the broader revolution in bank channels taking place,” Kirk said.

“To help rebuild customer trust and loyalty, reduce churn and improve retention, banks must enhance their online and mobile services, better integrate channels that their customers use most – like branches and websites – and focus on handling complaints properly the first time.”

Accenture commissioned an online survey of 2,524 current account customers in Great Britain, Northern Ireland the Republic of Ireland completed in October 2010. Among the respondents, 1,806 were from England, 350 from Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland, 193 from Scotland and 175 from Wales. Accenture’s November 2007 survey, also conducted online, included 3,015 current account customers in England, Wales and Scotland.

About Accenture
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with more than 215,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US$21.6 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2010. Its home page is


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