Feeling the Love

Consumers feel better about their community banking experiences

By Kate Feather

Consider your everyday professional experience confirmed: Consumers love the community bank experience—with their hearts, and not just their wallets.

A new study by PeopleMetrics Inc., the 2013 Most Engaging Customer Experiences (MECx) study, showed conclusively that consumers really do appreciate, on an emotional level, their community bank experiences much more than those at other retail banking institutions.

Conducted this year, the study showed that consumers, on average, give community banks a Net Promoter Score of 46, a measure of a person’s willingness to recommend a company to another. Contrast this with a much lower score of 9 for customers of national institutions, and it’s not hard to see that the community bank is winning at customer experience—hands, and hearts, down.

This higher “love rating” with consumers isn’t because the typical community bank customer is a different type of financial consumer. While the community bank customer does skew older, even the tech-savvy, social media heavy, affluent and younger among them are more engaged with their community bank.

So what is it about the community bank retail experience that such a broad range of people love?

One of the MECx study’s objectives was to identify the common emotional qualities—negative and positive—that customers associate with several major industries. The study’s ultimate goal is to help companies determine where they should focus their efforts to improve their customer experience to create stronger emotional ties with their customers. And consumers say they want their banking experiences to be enjoyable, and they say an enjoyable experience is one that leaves customers feeling valued, appreciated, cared for, confident and secure.

Not surprisingly, all banks do a fairly similar job of delivering confidence and security. These are really the basics to even compete in banking. Security is expected.

Where community banks excel, however, is their unique ability to make their customers feel valued, appreciated and cared for. Such a personal connection creates loyalty across a variety of customer demographics. As one community bank customer put it, “I don’t ever feel like I am just a number to them. I don’t feel like they are lying in wait to take advantage of me at the first opportunity. I was briefly a customer of a nationwide chain and I never felt valued. I tell everyone I know not to bank there. I prefer my community bank any day.” Community banks may not have the big budgets of their larger counterparts, but their greatest competitive advantage is their years of experience creating and delivering enjoyable experiences that keep customers appreciated and loyal. You may have always known this, and now you have the research to prove it.