Singaporeans are demanding when it comes to customer service but local banks have focused on factors like convenience and ease of interaction and neglected the emotional pull that builds loyalty and increased spending.

Vikram Sehgal, Forrester vice president and research director, addressed this topic at the recent CX Singapore Forum, where he reported that 90% of brands in Singapore deliver poor or very poor customer experience (CX), according to the research firm’s first Singapore Customer Experience Index study.

In a survey of 3,792 Singaporeans that ranked 16 brands across four sectors (local banks, insurance, airlines and government), the two top-rated brands, both banks (DBS Bank and OCBC Bank), only managed to reach the bottom of the OK range. (For more, read WARC’s report: How banks fare for customer experience in Singapore.)

Businesses have become too “focused on convenience”, Seghal said, which in turn leads to poor CX driven by poor customer loyalty. Customers are then ambivalent towards brands hoping to engage them.

This represents a costly opportunity loss, especially for the banking industry, which, separate Forrester research has shown, has an exponential relationship with CX: an increase of one point on an excellent CX Index score can drive revenue four times as much as increasing a poor score by one point for a traditional retail bank.

Banks need to move beyond simply reducing friction for the consumer, Seghal advised. “It really comes down to emotion” – something banks in the US have understood, and where the average CX score is much higher.

The current “transactionary relationship” that banks have with their customers does little to build emotional bonds and customer loyalty – and the latter is essential in a market where there are only so many more new customers a bank can actually acquire.

Banks must therefore improve CX quality with experiences that affirm the positives rather than simply avoid the negatives.

“Customer experience and in-branch experience is actually a lot more important as far as the impact in CX is, than pricing and fees,” said Sehgal, adding that there remains plenty of room for improvement.

“Only 44% of customers think that banks currently are doing a good job in customer service.”

Sourced from WARC