Value Communication in Banking: Still a Long Way to Go

September 30, 2019

Confident business people starting a business meeting

Have you ever asked your customers if they know which services you provide them? Do you know which services your customers value most? If the answer is no or not really, we can tell you that this is also the case at many other banks. Simon-Kucher & Partners has observed various institutions that suffer as a result. Revenue and sales targets aren’t being achieved, customer satisfaction is low, prices are deemed to be too high, and net promoter scores (NPS) leave much to be desired. So, how can banks optimize their value communication, and therefore, their sales? This short article offers a pragmatic answer to this crucial question.

Banking services are uninspiring products

Let‘s face it, banking isn’t the most exciting industry for consumers. The services provided are largely intangible and complex to understand. Unlike buying a new car or smartphone, the customer feels little emotion when purchasing banking products. In addition, most people have a very low level of involvement with banking services, which they primarily obtain to meet basic needs, such as receiving their salary and making payments. However, simply because a product isn’t attractive by nature doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be presented in the best light. In fact, the more complex a product is, the more important it is to communicate it effectively.

By improving transparency, banks are making things more confusing

Simon-Kucher & Partners has had the opportunity to collaborate with many banks on this topic over the last few years. We have observed that several banks put a lot of energy into making their services and pricing more transparent. However, most banks are still struggling to communicate added value in a comprehensive way. Not only have banks overloaded their customers with information, their approach to presenting products is too complex, which only adds to the confusion. This kind of communication has a double negative effect: Customers aren’t fully aware of the significant effort banks are making to meet their needs, and at the same time, many up- and cross-selling opportunities are being missed.

Without properly educating and supporting front staff, it will never improve

We have also observed that many bankers and relationship managers have great difficulty communicating the added value of their services. Although banks do spend time on training front office staff, the sessions typically take the form of linear presentations that are rarely repeated. For training to be effective, it should incorporate relevant case studies and individual feedback and needs to be held on a regular basis.

In terms of supporting materials, most banks provide their sales teams with general marketing brochures, exhaustive fact sheets, or complex price lists. Unfortunately, these documents aren’t being used in practice. Their level of detail and presentation style make them difficult to use, and they often don’t take the customer’s perspective or behavioral effects into account.

By integrating dynamic, digital solutions, banks can enable their front office staff to instantly adapt to customers’ responses during discussions and explain complex topics with easy-to-understand video clips or extracts from interviews with industry experts.

Other industries offer valuable inspiration

Many industries are much more advanced than banking and have already developed dynamic and interactive communication tools. For example, salespeople in the automotive industry are known to be extremely efficient but still benefit from digital tools; they have been using them to set up new cars according to customer preferences for several years. These configuration tools are available on the manufacturers’ websites, allowing customers to find out about the various options and are used by sales staff during customer discussions to provide a better understanding of the final product.

What about the banking industry? Simon-Kucher has already helped banks in many countries develop tools to improve internal and external communications. Typical questions addressed by these tools include:

  • How can we encourage customers to start investing in order to overcome the problems of low or even negative interest rates?
  • How can we enable customers to find the current account, mortgage, or investment offering that best fits their individual needs? 
  • How can we encourage customers to strengthen their relationship with the bank, increase up- and cross-selling, boost customer loyalty, and reduce the risk of losing customers?

When we look at how banks usually communicate with customers, we see a lot of room for improvement. By communicating value effectively, significant potential can be unlocked in multiple areas, including customer satisfaction, loyalty, price perception, and cross-selling. However, this will be a difficult task requiring significant effort and a change in culture across the entire organization.