Big five banks deploy digital at unprecedented time frames

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The customer satisfaction gap between South Africa’s big five banks is rapidly closing, as they face increasing pressure to re-invent their value propositions and differentiators, through the use of emerging technologies.

This is one of the key findings of the 2021 South African Customer Satisfaction Index (SAcsi) for Banking, conducted by research firm Consulta. The index provides insights into the overall level of satisfaction among customers of SA’s top five retail banks.

Consulta polled over 12 000 customers from the lower, middle and upper retail banking segments on their overall satisfaction rate with five of SA’s participating retail banks during 2021 – Absa, African Bank, First National Bank (FNB), Nedbank and Standard Bank.

According to the index, customer satisfaction remains the largest competitive advantage for banks, at a time when technology and digitisation are making them increasingly invisible to their customers – until things go wrong.

With banks offering nearly the same products and services, they are forced to capitalise on their customer experience across their online and physical services – from contact centres, to banking apps, to webchats, social media and in-branch visits.

As a result of this pressure,accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, banks and their customers have adopted digital banking platforms in unprecedented circumstances and time frames.

When it comes to the overall customer satisfaction score, African Bank (87.5), Nedbank (81.9) and Standard Bank (81.1) are in leader positions and above the industry par (79.7).

African Bank improved from 84.4 in 2020, Nedbank improved from 81.1 in 2020, while Standard Bank improved from 77.7 in 2020. FNB (79.8) is on par, while Absa (77) is below par, with both showing marginal declines on their 2020 scores.

Nedbank continues to make consistent year-on-year improvements and has for the third consecutive year outperformed FNB, achieving more than a two-point lead on FNB in 2021, according to the index.

“Customer expectations within the banking industry continue to rise to new highs of 83.8 (compared with 83.1 in 2020 and 82.4 in 2019). Every aspect of the customer journey has been fundamentally upended, with customers now engaging with many self-service channels from artificial intelligence, chatbots, mobile apps and contact centres opening up engagement channels between banks and their customers,”explains Abigail Boikhutso, CEO of Consulta.

“These developments have significant consequences for customer experience, expectations and satisfaction, and how customer complaints are handled and resolved in an environment where customers no longer make a distinction between their online and offline experiences.”

According to Boikhutso, banks now need to maintain a complex hybrid structure of online and offline service platforms for diverse customer preferences – as they face increasing pressure to ensure every banking functionality is value-adding, seamless, simple, and provides the real-time assistance and first-time resolution for every customer enquiry, no matter the service channel.

The reality is that as banks progress in term of the transformation of the customer journey, the higher the customer expectations, notes Consulta. Across all the SA Customer Satisfaction Index surveys conducted by Consulta, the banking sector remains the top performer when it comes to customer satisfaction.

“Having a customer on the latest and greatest banking app is moot if they are forced to go into the branch to sort out issues with their app. Having the latest technology and app is no longer a differentiator; customer experience is the ultimate battleground on which banks compete and where they can carve out a key point of differentiation with their customers,” addBoikhutso.

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13 Aug
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