An overwhelming majority of UK Internet users express anxiety about banking online, with few believing the channel can ever be used to forge a meaningful relationship with their bank.
The study, "Net Result: No Relationship – An Analysis of Internet Consumers, Online Financial Services and eCRM," was conducted by the Henley Centre on behalf of AIT and Microsoft.
While the results offer some succour for traditional providers, with a clear majority saying they would be unwilling to bank with Internet-only financial services outfits, the general tone of the responses appears to fly in the face of other recent polls which have indicated a growing comfort level with banking online.
The research, which surveyed 1000 Internet users, examined attitudes towards financial services providers (FSPs). The Henley Centre argues that surfers may be segmented into four distinct groups: traditionalists, enthusiasts, and, of the rest, those willing and not willing to pay for better service.
Significantly, these segments are not stereotypical: they cut across normal socio-demographic lines, presenting a challenge to FSPs when trying to predict behaviour and preferences.
The results of the study include:
* only 16 per cent of respondents – including those enthusiastic about Internet use – believe the Internet will be used by financial services providers to get closer to the customer;
* all segments consider multi-channelling vital: 80 per cent had telephoned their bank; 65 per cent had a face-to-face meeting and 45 per cent visited their Web site. In addition, 62 per cent are happy to be contacted about a new offer by email;
* eighty per cent feel that regular contact between an FSP and its customers helps build a better relationship;
* eighty-six per cent feel that by knowing their needs and history, financial services providers can build a better relationship with them;
* all sectors would prefer to deal with an established company rather than a new dotcom, and nearly two-thirds are nervous about doing business with an Internet-only FSP; and
* all sectors now regard the telephone as a widely accepted channel for financial services.
Clive McNamara, marketing director of AIT, comments: "As new media reaches mass market dimensions, consumers will adapt and use technology in ways that suit them and fit with their lives. The challenge facing financial services providers is how to recognise and accommodate these demands and how to change alongside them."
AIT used the research as a launch pad to promote its new CRM product - Portrait - which the company says is purpose-built to place eCRM within the contect of an integrated multi-channel banking strategy. A thin-client, scalable solution, it supports all existing and evolving channels including the contact centre, Internet, wireless, branch and iTV, says AIT.