Data collected over the past four years via Accenture’s Market Pulse Survey (MPS) revealed the flat relationship customers in Belgium have with their bank. Now in its 5th edition, the 2019 survey hints that a little sparkle is returning.

In this article, we discuss how banks can deliver the value customers are looking for by making better use of data and achieving the right level of human/machine interaction. Before concluding, we underline why the concept of the bank branch is very much alive. 

Renewed warmth, but still fragile

Banks have suffered from a low Net Promotor Score (NPS) in recent years. However, in 2019, the industry’s NPS reached an historic high of 13.2, a massive increase on the previous year’s score of 3.5. This is accompanied by a downward trend among customers stating “out of habit” as the number 1 reason for staying at their bank. Is it a sign of reignited love between banks and customers?

Despite this renewed warmth, the relationship remains fragile. Beneath the surface, Belgian banking customers remain highly critical and have high expectations of their bank. Key indicators like trust, loyalty and overall satisfaction have significantly dropped this year. So, regardless of this year’s healthy NPS, banks should not take anything for granted. They still need to look for ways to renew and expand their relationship with customers. 

To keep the flame burning, banks can breathe oxygen into the relationship using data 

  1. Banks should use the customer data they currently possess (from the Know Your Customer (KYC) process, transactions history, localization data from banking apps…) to proactively provide protection against fraud. At present, 60% of Belgian customers are willing to allow their bank to use their personal data to proactively detect fraudulent transactions.
  2. Next to protecting customers’ money, banks can help customers make the most out of their money. Banks already have insights into their customers’ shopping behavior: where and when they spend their money. Banks can use these data to, for example, proactively provide customers with the best deals in their preferred shopping locations. Almost half of the customers (44%) surveyed are willing to allow their bank to do this. This goes beyond the additional services some banks have already added to their apps (buying sports or concert tickets, mobility...). Why not make it even more personalized?
  3. Ensuring that customers make the most out of their money is a good start. But banks can take additional steps to demonstrate that they are a trusted life companion by keeping their customers’ financial health in top condition. 40% of Belgian customers stated they are willing to allow their bank to use their personal data to provide them with alerts when they reach their monthly spending limit.
  4. Taking care of their customers’ financial health also means planning for the future. Once again, this is an opportunity for banks to reinvigorate the relationship. The 2019 MPS results show that 30% of respondents in Belgium would be open to allow their bank to use their personal data to help them plan and invest for their retirement. For example, by combining major income changes with browsing history to detect potential candidates for retirement plans, especially amongst the younger customer base.

Humans and machines working together

Similar to the results of last year’s MPS, the way banks serve their customers is crucial. This should be taken into account as banks prioritize investment efforts. Achieving the right combination of humans and machines working together is critical to deliver a best in class banking experience.

Our 2019 survey reveals that Belgian banking customers are interested in automated processes for activities such as consulting product information (contract, status…) and updating personal data. Comparing offers is also considered a basic activity that scores high on customer willingness for fully automated processes.

However, Belgian banking customers are less willing to interact with machines for tasks such as changing the terms of their contract. When dealing with complex and high added value activities, human touchpoints can provide the personal guidance and tailored solutions customers are looking for.These include negotiating an offer (59% of customers performed this activity at a branch), terminating a contract (59%), or buying a banking product (40%).

For this reason, human interactions cannot be consigned to history. 

Innovating the human touch(point) 

Belgian banks face a dilemma. On the one hand, they are tempted to continue their branch network concentration because basic tasks performed by branches in the past are now being done via digital channels. As confirmed by our survey, digital channels can provide the convenience and speed customers are looking for when interacting with their bank for basic day-to-day banking activities. For instance, transferring funds (90% of customers performed this activity via a digital channel), checking account balance (84%), and updating personal details (51%).

On the other, human interaction is at the heart of the customer relationship. The results of our 2019 MPS confirm that bank branches are the second most important reason why customers stay at their bank. A careful balance between digital and human interactions needs to be maintained.

Branch closures in recent years have not gone unnoticed. It’s the first time in three years of our survey that overall branch NPS has declined. However, we see a few exceptions. Banks that manage to combine a more or less stable NPS for their branch channel with a strong digital NPS are outperforming the industry. They are either doing well with what they have or successfully personalizing the other (digital) channels to such an extent that the branch is less and less missed. Banks that are unable to compensate or complement the loss of human touchpoints are clearly suffering and scoring worst in the overall NPS mentioned at the beginning of this article.

One thing is certain: banking customers will continue to look for personal advice in their decision making, so banks need to offer these opportunities in a smart and cost-effective way. This includes bringing the branch into customers’ pockets by using untapped communication channels powered by digital technologies. 

Only reinvent where customers see value

This year’s Market Pulse Survey brings encouraging news to banks about the relationship they have with their customers. There are signs that a little sparkle is returning, and this can be further enhanced through better use of data, automating some processes and maintaining the right balance between physical and digital interactions. But the relationship remains fragile. The message is clear: banks should only reinvent where customers see value. 

Want to compare your bank’s performance with anonymized competitors and benchmarks? We’d be delighted to meet you for a chat.

The infographic summary of the results is also available here.

Adrien Kirschfink

Managing Director – Strategy & Consulting

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