FORT ATKINSON, Wis. (2/29/12)--While credit unions traditionally pride themselves on superior member service, a more aggressive approach to sales by big banks is costing community financial institutions a chance to grab market share from major financial institutions, according to a new study.
In conducting the study, released jointly by IntelliShop and RateWatch, 120 auditors posed as new checking account prospects. They found that the large banks not only did a better job of assessing customer needs, they were much more proactive about "selling" the benefits of the bank and its services.
Credit unions traditionally train their member service representative to offer products and services based on long-term relationship building, rather than a "product-of-the-day" approach. But the recent backlash against Wall Street institutions provided community financial institutions a great opening to grow their customer base, said Chris Denove, IntelliShop's senior vice president of research and analytics.
The study found that account representatives at the local institutions were pleasant, but took a more laid-back approach when they answered questions and didn't bring up the institution's benefits on their own. For example, the study found that large banks were:
- Four times more likely to try to find out about other types of banking relationships member/customers had at their current institution.
- Nearly twice as likely to ask if the consumer wanted to actually "sign up today."
- Nearly twice as likely to collect a prospect's contact information for follow up.
Smaller institutions, however, were more likely to hand prospects collateral material to take home and read, thereby requiring the customer to uncover the financial institution's benefits on their own.
The study also found that in addition to placing a greater emphasis on "selling," large banks also exhibited better "people skills." The mystery auditors reported:
- Large banks were more likely to greet customers as they entered the bank.
- Large banks were twice as likely to initiate conversation (small talk) unrelated to the transaction to build rapport with the prospect.
"The fact that the larger banks were more engaging at a personal level came as a surprise," said Rachelle Zorn, RateWatch general manager. "In the past, small banks have tended to do better in terms of customer satisfaction. It will be interesting to see if the larger banks begin carrying this service-oriented sales approach over to their existing clients."