CEO and Co-Founder

Banking giant Santander had a difficult 2010 in terms of customer perceptions, with poor service quality leading to customer dissatisfaction and driving down scores across all BrandIndex measures. BrandIndex is a YouGov tool that uses several different means of measuring and tracking customer perception of given brands.

This week we asked whether Santander's drop in popularity actually matters, as a new report from YouGov SixthSense into the customer journey suggests that customer inertia may give the bank hope.

Only 15% of adults have changed their main bank in the past five years, and most of those have done so for lifestyle reasons.

The reason for this low customer churn is that 40% of those that haven’t changed are 'reluctant loyalists' – those who are not satisfied with their provider but remain loyal.

The concern remains, however, as the report reveals that among adults who have changed their provider in the past five years, the impact of positive reviews on financial websites (49%), positive reviews in the personal finance pages of newspapers and magazines (40%) and features in the best buy tables of price comparison websites (40%) are strong.

Assuming their reluctant loyalists make their voices heard, Santander is likely to record poor reviews, but the main impact of this will probably be that the bank fails to attract new customers, rather than losing existing ones.

The conundrum for banks chasing Santander’s dissatisfied customers is that whilst it is customer service levels that drive satisfaction, it is the bank’s offerings that people look at when considering a new provider. 'Better value for money' (50%) and 'bank charges' (49%) both outperform 'customer service' (42%) as factors precipitating change.

The challenge, then, is first to overcome the inertia by playing on service dissatisfaction and then to show that they have better offerings than their competitors.

See more on the YouGov SixthSense 'customer journey' report

A version of this article originally appeared in City AM

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