The majority of customers still prefer to do their banking and buy financial products at branches because of poor performance of Internet and telephone channels, according to a global retail banking study conducted by management consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.
The study, which used customer research and mystery shopping to assess 100 retail banks across 17 countries, found that despite technological advances, globally customers still prefer banking in branches – with 63% saying they use branches for purchasing current and savings account products and 54% visiting branches to secure a mortgage.
But the study found that call centre performance is poor, with almost half (48%) of banks scoring 'low' on time spent waiting to speak to a specialist adviser, while 43% scored 'low' on staff knowledge.
"Banks are failing to capitalise on the enormous potential of key growth channels such as online and mobile sales forces, because the performance of these channels does not meet customer needs and expectations," says Alan Gemes, vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton.
Although still popular with customers branch importance is in relative decline, says Booz Allen. For purchasing less complex products, such as credit cards, over half of customers would use another channel, with 21% purchasing online and 16% by telephone.
The trend away from the branch is being lead by affluent consumers who are 30% more likely to prefer using Internet services. But this group was found to be neglected by banks, with 72% of surveyed firms scoring 'low' on their segmented online facilities for mass affluent customers.
Says Gemes: "The growing mass-affluent market means than banks need to develop their premier service offerings. The best banks are providing dedicated staff and floors in their branches, separate call centre facilities, premier Web sites and segmented mobile service offerings."
Overall the study found that Hong Kong has the best performing retail banks, leading in three out of five channels - branches, call centres and mobile sales force.
Switzerland came in second place, with strong performance in branches and in call centres, and the US was third over all but banks in the country came scored as the second highest country in terms of branch performance, largely due to retail strategies focussed on attracting customers into the branch such as convenient opening hours, promotions and an emphasis on customer service.
The best individual performers across the 17 countries in the study are HSBC in Hong Kong, Raiffeisen in Switzerland and UBS in Switzerland.
HSBC Hong Kong tops the tables for best branches and best mobile sales teams, while Citibank UK was found to provide the best call centre service. UK banking group Hbos was found to offer the best multi-channel experience.