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For banks, face-time is as important as technology to build customer loyalty

Technology is the foundation for customer loyalty but the edge still comes from strong personal relationships.
Mobile and online banking innovation is necessary but not adequate to engender customer loyalty, new study finds.

Mobile and online banking innovation is necessary but not adequate to engender customer loyalty, new study finds.

The battle of the banks is increasingly about delivering the best mobile and online platforms, but new research indicates that is not enough to create customer loyalty.

The study, conducted by Massey University and Perth's Curtin University, shows while mobile and online technologies have revolutionised banking, technology alone does not create loyalty with business customers.

Massey Business School associate professor Henry Chung says self-service technologies are now an integral way for banks to deal with customers.

They also offer an opportunity for large, foreign banks with strong brands and superior infrastructure to penetrate markets that have been dominated by local banks.

“We analysed participants’ e-loyalty – their preference for interacting with their bank by using mobile and online platforms – and found that e-loyalty is a critical component of doing business because it offers advantages like 24x7 access and instant payments," Chung said.

However, the self-service technologies widely used by banks have also become standardised. Those services are now expected, rather than offering a significant competitive advantage to banks.

Chung said the study found that good, personalised relationship building led to an increase in e-loyalty.

“Our research shows that foreign banks like Citibank and HSBC can’t rely solely on their superior technological platforms to provide a competitive edge,” he said.

“If locally-branded banks have a good self-service offering and also build strong face-to-face relationships with their business customers, they will create both e-loyalty and greater trust in their brand."

What is important is that banks have an e-banking offering that customers find satisfying. As long as that is achieved, relationship building can bring a competitive advantage.

Chung will present the findings of his co-authored paper at the symposium on Branding in the Business-to-Business Context at Massey University this week.

Chung and his colleagues collected data from 336 New Zealand small and medium-sized businesses and compared their commitment to local and national-branded banks with their commitment to foreign-branded banks.