People tend to know a lot about birthstones - the unique stone assigned to each month, but it may surprise you to learn that each month also has at least one flower associated with it. December's flower, for instance, is the narcissus. The name comes from the Greek mythological figure who was so beautiful that he fell in love with his own reflection and couldn't tear himself away, bringing about his demise.
This highlights an important point for banks, many of whom are excessively vain when it comes to the quality of their customer service. The simple fact is that customers have choices and lots of them, so one should never get too cocky. Even though the total number of banks has dropped over the years, there are still around 6,800 in the U.S. In most communities, banks are on every corner and for some customers, there is very little stopping them from giving their hard-earned dollars to a competitor. That's one reason why banks need to continually strive to build deeper and better relationships.
We're not just talking about retail customers here. The dangers are very real when it comes to corporate banking customers as well. To this point, we found a recent study by Ernst & Young very telling. While 63% of executives surveyed gave their current core banking teams high marks on overall performance, banks fell short of expectations on 11 out of 16 key performance criteria used to select and continue core bank relationships. It's noteworthy, for example, that 89% of corporate customers cited service quality as the top criterion for selecting and keeping their primary bank, but only 73% said their banks are performing well in this area. Meanwhile 82% cited product quality as very important, but 64% gave their banks strong marks in this area.
When asked what would make them switch banks, some familiar themes surfaced. For starters, corporate customers said they wanted their bank to be cost-competitive. They also said they want to work with a strategic partner, not just have a place to park their money. Additionally, corporate customers indicated that they don't like working with banks that are too pushy.
These third-party studies are good for understanding general trends to be sure, but what they don't do is tell you what's happening at your bank. That's why it's so important for each bank to do its own benchmarking. It will help you analyze on a regular basis what the bank is doing well, what it's doing poorly, and what improvements would make a difference in keeping relationships on solid footing.
As community bankers, we pride ourselves at the high level of customer service we offer, but no one should stare in their own reflection too long. Ask whether your bank has taken the time to ensure that the level of service provided is matching customers' expectations. Are bankers giving customers what they want, or just what it seems they might want? After peeling back the layers of this onion, some might be overestimating things.
As you get ready to begin a new year, consider your accomplishments, but also seek to improve to stay sharp. Competition is everywhere so be careful not to get complacent. Everyone knows there is a fine line between pride and narcissism, so be careful not to cross it and good things will come your way all year long.