In their past Global Consumer Banking Survey, Ernst & Young (EY) said that opening and closing accounts are more closely tied customer experience than rates, fees or location. Moreover, traditional banks are coming in competition with the emergence of “FinTech” or Financial Technologies, which offers the streamlined customer experience that consumers are looking for.
Before you go thinking FinTech is just buzzword boogeyman, a report by Accenture shows that investments in FinTech around the world have gone from $930 million in 2008 to $12 billion in 2015. To compete with the emergence of FinTech, some traditional banking companies are looking into how they can innovate and streamline their customer experience much like the FinTech experience consumers are drawn to.
In this article, we explore the top five most recommended US banks based on Net Promoter Score®, an industry-standard metric used to determine how likely consumers are to recommend a company based on their experience.
This list has been compiled in partnership with NPSBenchmarks.com. If you think you should be on our list, please submit your score at NPSBenchmarks.com.
1. USAA Banking, NPS = 75
If this isn’t the first time you’ve seen USAA at the top of one of these lists, it’s for good reason. USAA has continuously set the standard for not only the banking sector, but the financial services industry as a whole when it comes to delivering superior customer experience.
Sitting at a Net Promoter Score of 75, USAA stands ahead of the pack for a number of key reasons:
- Continued commitment to great customer service The folks at USAA take their slogan “We know what it means to serve” seriously. They do this by tapping into customer empathy and making sure every interaction is helpful instead of harmful. Part of this mentality can be attributed to the banks roots: originally targeted to military members, the bank now serves anyone.
- Customers before profits USAA is committed to putting customers’ needs before profits. USAA has found that some of their key drivers for customer loyalty and satisfaction include the ease of doing business with the company and the feeling that customers are treated fairly. In order to build robust customer trust, USAA customers are regularly brought into the company’s offices to speak with employees at all levels about their challenges.
- Digital transformation of the customer experience USAA became the first bank to allow customers to check their bank balances via text messages and email. Today this might be a common practice, but back in 2009 it helped USAA establish itself as truly customer-centric company. USAA has even managed to provide a truly free checking account by finding a way to profitably reimburse up to $15 a month in ATM fees charged by other banks.
2. First Republic Bank, NPS = 72
First Republic Bank reached the #6 spot in Forbes most recent list of America’s Largest Banks, and in our list they’ve captured the second spot at a Net Promoter Score of 72. Similar to USAA, First Republic Bank has learned that investing in customer service and customer experience is a competitive differentiator, especially at a time when most banks are minimizing costs in those areas.
In his article, “First Republic: A Customer Service Franchise Disguised as a Bank,” Sean Stannard-Stockton discusses how First Republic has benefited financially from this approach. In the article, Sean presents two forms of competitive advantages: price and differentiation. In the commodity business, you compete on price. However, when selling a differentiated product, consumers care less about the actual price and more about what differentiated aspect a company sells.
“At First Republic,” Sean states, “their customers aren’t buying and selling money like they do at the “big dumb bank across the street”, they are buying the peace of mind and time savings that come from having a customer service focused organization taking care of their banking needs.”
This customer-centric approach has paid off big time for First Republic, in a number of ways:
- Organic growth & enterprise value Not only has First Republic become the first bank to surpass $50 billion assets through organic growth alone, but their value has grown at a compound rate of 23% a year.
- Net interest margin stability While most interest rates are often chaotic for banks, First Republic’s has remained stable for the last 15+ years.
- Lending with foresight First Republic has managed to weather the housing boom and bubble and protect their customers by not lending money to people who can’t pay it back. Net charge-offs over the last 16 years have been 0.03% (rising +0.11% in 2009 and 2010). During this same time, the top 50 US banks saw 1300% higher annual losses than First Republic’s.
You can learn more about First Republic’s customer service approach in this video interview with Jim Herbert, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of First Republic:
3. Charles Schwab, NPS = 52
Back in 2003, Charles Schwab was in a bit of a conundrum both financially and with their customer service, with a Net Promoter Score of -35. After implementing the Net Promoter System in 2004, Charles Schwab began turning their financial and customer experience woes around by focusing on employee engagement and quick follow-up with customers. Today, Charles Schwab sits at a Net Promoter Score of 52.
This impressive jump over the years can be attributed, in part, to a change in focus at Charles Schwab, where running the business “through the client’s eyes” is an everyday mantra. In 2017, this strategy led to a number of improvements to the customer journey to better serve clients, including lowering commissions to the lowest in the country.
They also launched the Schwab Intelligent Advisory, an interactive online financial planning tool that provides 24/7 access to certified finance planners and additional support for common questions.
To show customers how serious they are about delivering on their customer service mantra, Charles Schwab is putting their money where their mouth is with the introduction of their “satisfaction guaranteed” promise, which states that if a customer isn’t completely satisfied, they will refund any fees and work to correct the issues immediately.
4. Citigroup, NPS = 18
Citigroup is the fourth largest bank in the United States, with a revenue of $69.87 billion, with over 200 million customers in 160 countries. Since the financial crisis of 2008, Citigroup has worked hard at improving their image among customers, and currently has a Net Promoter Score of 18.
A few key factors can be attributed to their continued rise in Net Promoter Score:
- Rewarding customers with perks Understanding the value of giving back to customers, Citigroup is positioning itself to invest in both reward perks and building relationships with retailers such as Home Depot, American Airlines, Costco and Best Buy. In addition, their cash back program, branded cards and rewards card platform has taken off with customers. Combined, each of these customer enhancements have accelerated growth by +$136 billion between Q2 of 2015-2017.
- Digital transformation and innovation Much like their FinTech counterparts, Citigroup is embracing the power of digital innovation in increasing engagement among current and new customers. Back in 2016, current Citi Customer and Digital Experience Officer Alice Milligan pronounced that Citigroup would be expanding their mobile capabilities: “…we are launching a number of enhancements to our mobile app, with the goal of expanding the functionality and utility of the app by delivering new and innovative features. Citi offers a number of exclusive benefits to our card members, which is our way of thanking them for their loyalty to us, and we want to ensure these are available cross-channel.” It seems Citigroup has benefited from this approach. Between May 2016 and 2017, engagement with innovations made to digital and mobile platforms has gone up 9% and 17%, respectively.
- Streamlining the omni-channel customer journey
In addition to ensuring the digital experience was enhanced for customers, Citigroup is also largely focused on ensuring that the customer journey has as few pain points as possible. According to Alice Milligan, this requires a holistic view of the customer experience, especially in the handoff between different channels. As part of her team’s analysis, they realized customers, after making a payment online, would often call within 24 hours to confirm whether payments went through:
“By having a cross-channel journey view, we develop omni-channel strategies that better serve customers, such as providing real-time payment confirmations online, text, and via email, as well as educating our customer service agents about how to handle incoming calls from customers who are active online.”
5. PNC, NPS = 15
PNC currently sports a Net Promoter Score of 15, and is another retail bank that is taking a hard look at where improvements can be made in the customer journey.
In a recent interview with Karen Larrimer, Head of Retail Banking & Chief Customer Office, she discussed the large role technology takes in a customer’s everyday banking with PNC:
“At PNC, we want to create a seamless experience for our customers so that each new product or service we create is faster and easier to use. Our success is dependent on our ability to serve our customers efficiently through their channel of choice and to provide customers with access to the financial expertise and unique tools they need to successfully manage their money.”
As part of this push for improved customer experience, in 2015 PNC implemented their PNC CARES initiative across their different lines of the business. According to PNC, this model encourages employees to connect with customers in a personal way, and share best practices among their colleagues.
As part of PNC CARES, PNC focused on creating a diverse team that encourages accountability at every level of the organization and improves relationships between managers and employees. In addition to this focus, PNC's strategic priority for transforming the customer experience can be broken down into 4 key factors:
- Transaction migration
- Branch network transformation
- Multichannel engagement
- Service strategy enhancements
You can learn more about PNC's customer experience strategies in their annual reports here.
Thanks for tuning in. Be sure to look out for more of our recommended series in the weeks to come!