Customer profitability faces headwinds at major banks internationally according to a recent survey by Accenture called Customer 2012 Time for a New Contract Between Banks and their Customers?

Average customer profitability as fallen 5% to 15% since before 2008 and remains below pre-crisis levels. Customer loyalty has decreased, customers are more price sensitive and they are shopping around more often since the crisis.

The banks’ traditional profit-recovery strategies such as rate and fee increases, conventional cross-selling and organic growth will not really fix the problem because customers have become more distrustful of banks and at the same time more demanding.

Eighty three percent of executives at 46 banks internationally reported increased demand for direct services such as online, telephone and mobile since the financial crisis and 63% believe that meeting those demands will be a major challenge for their companies in the next three years.

In a post-crisis world, the bank executives said they will need strong customer analytics, well integrated service channels, personalized offerings nad innovative technologies to attract and retain customers. The survey showed a significant shortfall in banks ability to deliver such services.

Customers were trending in this direction before 2008 but the crisis significantly accelerated the process, says Dorothy Armstrong, co-author of Accenture’s Customer 2012 Research Study and a senior executive in Accenture’s Financial Services Group. “The speed at which customers are moving to using many different channels such as mobile was happening but it has speeded up.” There’s much more customer volatility in terms of customers switching banks entirely or buying other products from another bank than they had in the past.

At the moment banks organize themselves around product lines and use their data to figure out when you might be ready for another loan, for example, says Armstrong. “What self directed customers are saying is: I having very specific needs for products. I don’t want bundled products. They want lots of information to compare the costs of different products and bundle them themselves, for example a car loan and car insurance.”

They also want banks to know how they want to buy, she says. “Customers want banks to know how they prefer to be sold to. One customer might want to never hear from a salesperson, but instead wants timely information via email that is delivered with comparison with the competition. But others might want to hear from a salesperson.”

Big global players like HSBC are ahead of the curve on this, she says. It has a highly interactive online business, with a chat room where people chat with each other. “This is pulling the customer in instead of pushing out products,” Armstrong says.

What’s more, Gen X and Y don’t assume that banks are the place to get financial information. Five years from now the battle will be for ownership of the customer’s primary relationship. “Banks are thinking very hard about ecosystem in terms of the universe or ecosystem around customer including things like Google and iphones and how to partner with them,” says Armstrong.




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