April 03, 2012

New York-based consulting and technology services firm Accenture recently asked 10,000 consumers in 27 countries to evaluate 10 industries, including banking, on issues ranging from service expectations and purchasing intentions to loyalty and satisfaction. The results of the Accenture Global Consumer Survey reveal that although participation in bank loyalty programs is on the rise, those programs aren't as effective as they need to be.

The survey indicates that North American consumers' participation in bank loyalty programs has increased from 23 percent in 2009 to 33 percent in 2011. However, nearly one-third, or 30 percent, of North American bank customers didn’t know that loyalty programs were available. On top of that, less than half (45 percent) of bank customers in North America say loyalty programs have persuaded them to stay with their bank.

Some banks need to reevaluate their loyalty program strategies, according to Nigel Smith, managing director of Accenture Banking Distribution & Marketing Services in North America. "More customers are joining traditional loyalty programs, yet these programs are not enough to keep customers satisfied," he says. "Agile banks monitor customers' behavior and purchases so they can easily spot when a particular customer's commercial patterns change and respond accordingly, using advanced customer analytics. Importantly, the magnitude of these changes must be viewed through the eyes of the customer, not the bank."

[For an expert view on building customer loyalty, read Key to Building Bank Customer Loyalty Is Disruptive Innovation.]

The survey also took a look at social media's effect across industries, and the results indicate that globally, social media is having an increasing influence on consumers' relationships to companies in all industries. The general use of social media sites has also increased overall engagement with their current providers and their brands, say 21 percent of consumers -- up from 14 percent in 2010. Comments on social media sites influence 29 percent of consumers' decisions on whether or not to buy products or services, up from 24 percent in 2010. In addition, 27 percent of consumers around the world agree that comments on social media sites influence their opinions of companies and brands in general (an increase from 20 percent in 2010).

Banks must recognize social media's influence on customer engagement and loyalty, notes Smith. "Customers want to access information and buy products through the channel of their choice," he says. "Banks that are not engaging with consumers digitally as part of a multi-channel experience are letting significant drivers of loyalty go untapped."

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