LONDON: Brand owners in the banking sector need to adopt a nuanced approach to match the changing habits and preferences of consumers, a multimarket study has suggested.

BT, the telecoms giant, Avaya, the communications firm, and Davies Hickman Partners, the research group, surveyed 2,000 people in Germany, Spain, the UK and US. They found the average shopper used 2.9 channels while choosing banking products.

One major problem area identified by the report, however, was that 40% of respondents agreed they had been required to exert "very high effort" when making purchases from banks.

In all, the analysis revealed that 64% of Germans had a "strong relationship" with their current bank, falling to 55% in the US, 40% in Spain and only 34% for the UK.

Some 59% of the American and British panels were also "more likely" to switch providers in this category as a result of experiencing poor customer service, hitting 56% in Germany and 45% in Spain.

At present, 73% of the sample still regarded local branches as the "most vital link" to their bank, second only to cash machines on this metric, and 64% concurred that these outlets were the "channel of choice for the future".

To date, 24% consumers have accessed mobile banking services. A 31% proportion of those polled would be comfortable making payments in the same way, and 10% had completed transactions for low-value items using contactless systems in stores.

However, just 5% of interviewees wanted to use social media as a customer service channel, and an even more modest 3% would be willing to share their Facebook profile with banking brands.

Moreover, 60% of contributors were not interested in utilising Facebook, Twitter and similar sites to resolve customer service issues.

"Banks in particular are facing some of the toughest challenges of any sector and they have to prioritise investments that deliver to the bottom line," said Tom Regent, of BT Global Services.

"Innovations in customer service technology can help them achieve this. Whether it's in the branch or through remote channels such as mobile banking, technologies now exist that can link up customers to the right people and the right information in a cost-effective way."

Data sourced from Avaya; additional content by Warc staff