Customers' declining satisfaction with banks could drum up mystery shopping opportunities

Many financial institutions are looking to incorporate emerging technology into their operations to increase efficiency and productivity, driving down costs from payroll.

Many financial institutions are looking to incorporate emerging technology into their operations to increase efficiency and productivity, driving down costs from payroll. However, these efforts may not be quite as well-received by their clients, according to a recent J.D. Power and Associates Retail Banking Customer Satisfaction Survey.

Banking customers report lower satisfaction

The study, which was based on answers from approximately 12,000 banking customers in Canada, found a 5 percent drop in advocacy and a 4 percent drop in loyalty. This means customers are less likely to recommend the brand to their families and friends, while they are more likely to switch to a competitor.

One of the primary contributing factors was fees. The study found 27 percent of respondents said fee structures had changed in 2011, and one-quarter said they were less satisfied with the rates they were paying.

"Not only are customers frustrated with changes to their fee structure, but many are also confused by the changes, leading to the lower satisfaction," said Lubo Li, senior director of the financial services practice at J.D. Power and Associates.

To improve customer satisfaction, Li said there should be renewed focus on engagement between banks and consumers. Fostering an environment in which customers understand changes and are aware of new offerings on digital and mobile channels might bolster satisfaction.

Mystery shoppers can help banks improve scores

As banks look to improve their customer satisfaction and loyalty ratings, they might consider bringing in professional mystery shoppers. Instead of relying solely on customer surveys, which may be influenced by previous frustrations with fee changes or service encounters, financial institutions can hire a mystery shopping company to gain an unbiased view of the customer experience that's being offered.

They might ask secret shoppers to gauge how well employees explain fee changes and to what degree tellers provide information about new service offerings. Shoppers might be asked to note whether or not service representatives pose certain questions, such as "Do you participate in mobile banking?" "Can I tell you about our online services?" or "Would you be interested in switching to paperless statements?"

Bank chains can also use the service to evaluate their online offerings. Since they are encouraging clients to use web-based services rather than visit bank branches for certain transactions, they might want to ensure the sites are easy to navigate and customers can quickly find links to customer service representatives should they need help.