Step by step, Germany's banks are recovering from the crisis of confidence in the years following the global financial crisis. Measurable loyalty improved in 2014 by six percentage points to plus ten percent. The Bain Global Survey carried out every year revealed that the more than 7,000 German retail customers interviewed in the survey were especially satisfied with the services of the direct banks. But the traditional credit institutions also achieved good scores again in the survey. Among the big banks, the Net Promoter® Score (NPS®) – the survey's key statistic – was up on the previous year by 14 percentage points to minus two percent.
But, besides service quality and fees, one other factor is particularly conducive to promoting loyalty: the consistent fusion of the digital access channels. As in many other countries, the ratings of omnichannel users in Germany were also especially positive, with the NPS averaging out at plus 14 percent. The more frequently customers interact with their banks online and physically, the higher the measurable loyalty. The economic significance of rising NPS readings is enormous. As the survey shows, especially loyal customers – so-called promoters – buy more products, remain loyal to a bank for longer and are more likely to make referrals.
But the study also shows where the limits to primary bank loyalty lie. Particularly in the segment of high-value products, many clients in the digital age are no longer afraid to approach institutions offering especially attractive solutions. At the moment, a customer's primary bank represents only around 50 percent of new business. In many cases these are basic products such as giro and savings accounts or credit cards. But promotors also remain loyal to their credit institution in areas such as property finance, securities trading or insurance. The key to generating consistently high returns in the retail business thus lies in systematically upgrading customer satisfaction across all access channels. The growing role of mobile banking is especially important in this context: More and more people, both young and old, are conducting their banking interactions via smartphone or tablet. In 13 of the 22 countries participating in the survey, mobile has meanwhile become the most-used banking channel for retail customers.
A new era is dawning for the banking sector. In Germany, first institutions are now also taking up the challenge of creating cross-channel solutions that are uncompromisingly customized to customer needs. Bain has identified five key areas of action:
- Create unique, digitally-based customer experiences. Credit institutions have to free themselves from thinking solely along product lines and instead devise cross-channel concepts that allow banking interactions to be conceived as simply and conveniently as possible.
- Migrate to omnichannel distribution models: A banking concept that is unrestricted in terms of time and place has huge repercussions for the role of the branches. The future belongs to a hub & spoke model based on flagship and satellite branches.
- Integrate modern technologies into the core strategy. With agile application development, new customer experiences and applications can be more productively fused.
- Finance the investments: Considerable resources have to be earmarked for a strategy that is rigorously focused on digitalization. Efficiency needs to be promoted through simplification of products, processes and structures as well as through reprioritization.
- Make innovation and change ongoing processes. Breaking down the current silo structure is as crucial as opening up to external partners.
Based on these five key areas, a business model can gradually be enacted that does justice to the needs and expectations of customers in the digital age and bonds them more strongly to their primary banks. This will enable credit institutions to more forcefully translate greater loyalty into higher returns.