The Secret To Loyal Financial Services Customers

Eight years ago, Forrester set out to find the corporate trait that does the most to create loyalty among financial services consumers. Loyalty, of course, is about more than simply retaining customers: Loyal customers are willing to buy more, borrow more, save more, and invest more with the firms they already use. We tested dozens of variables, including the length of the customer’s relationship with the firm, the quality of the firm’s customer service, and the firm’s money management skills. One trait emerged above all others: the perception on the part of customers that the firm does what’s best for them, not just what’s best for the firm’s own bottom line. We call it customer advocacy.

Our research continues to show that customers who rate their firm highest on customer advocacy are most likely to stay at and do more business with the firms they use. In the just-published “Customer Advocacy 2011: How Customers Rate US Banks, Investment Firms, and Insurers,” we show which firms are ranked highest by their customers – and which ones bring up the rear. 

The Big US banks dominate the bottom of our rankings of 47 firms. Thirteen of the bottom 14 firms are banks, including all of the nation’s 10 largest banks. Fewer than one-in-four customers of Citibank and Capital One Bank believe that the firm has their best interests at heart.  Small banking institutions, on the other hand, are among the customer advocacy leaders – and are winning market share in the process. Two-thirds of the customers of credit unions and well over half of the customers of regional and local banks rate their firms high on customer advocacy.

Just as big banks dominate the bottom of our rankings, insurers dominate the top. The overall leader, as in past years, is USAA, which is way out in front this year. Smart eBusiness and channel strategists would do well to follow the lead of USAA, which works hard to simplify users’ lives, be transparent, and show empathy to customers who contact the firm.