High quality customer service is not unique to the banking experience anymore.

What customers want from your new bank branch

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Bank and credit union branches serve as a financial services epicenter for those they serve. Need to cash a check? They have that covered. Looking to learn more about a loan product or the interest rate for a savings vehicle? They can provide answers.

Retail banks, of course, provide much more than the basics. But there's one type of service that account holders want more than any other – the kind that keeps them fully satisfied. Branches are therefore compelled to dig in deep with customers to get an idea of what they really like, what they don't and what could use some improvement. Failing to engage customers may cause them to take their business elsewhere, turning the splash that new branches hope to make in their respective communities into more of a splat.

Customers overall pleased with services rendered
Fortunately, all things considered, financial institutions appear to be doing a pretty good job in the quality assurance department. In a 2015 poll conducted by Gallup, out of seven types of businesses to choose from, respondents ranked bank branches as the very best, with 38 percent of them attesting to receiving "excellent" service and 51 percent saying it was "good," for a combined overall satisfaction total of roughly 90 percent. No other business type received a higher percentage of "excellent" ratings. But there is always room for improvement, and by touching base with customers on a monthly or quarterly basis, banks can determine where to focus their efforts.

Studies show why following up pays off with regard to retention. A separate study, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs and published by American Banker, found that 96 percent of respondents were satisfied with their local banking experience but consumers are, if nothing else, more demanding than ever before. Therefore it is better to address issues before they lead to lost business.

Rural community banking professionals' drive to keep their account holders as happy as possible may explain why they are faring favorably from a financial perspective, particularly in comparison to facilities in urban locales. Speaking at the Federal Reserve's Sixth Annual Community Banking Research and Policy Conference in October, Supervision Vice Chairman Randal Quarles said community banks are turning heads.

"While urban community banks are quite a bit larger than rural community banks on average, over the last 20 years, rural community banks have consistently earned higher rates of return on assets and rates of return on equity than their urban peers despite a more challenging economic environment," Quarles explained.

He went on to note that even in the aftermath of the financial crisis, there's been a slight increase in the share of community banks operating in primarily rural markets, rising to 54 percent compared to 53 percent before the recession.

"As community banks have increased in asset size, they have also grown their branch networks," Quarles added.

Business woman meeting with male customer dressed in suit at table. Banks are raising the bar when it comes to customer satisfaction.

And the big players are not excluded from this effort. JP Morgan Chase has announced it plans on opening an additional 400 new branches focused on new markets over the next five years, with many of those projects already underway.

The quality of service bank and credit union customers receive is part of what supports growth for financial institutions. In other words, if customers weren't getting their questions answered and needs addressed, they'd simply stop going, opting in favor of an alternative channel or a competitor, thereby making expansion unnecessary.

Customer satisfaction can be a double-edged sword
But since so many banking facilities have raised the bar of customer satisfaction excellence, not living up to all account holders' expectations can prove costly.

How so? Since they have so many alternatives to choose from, customers won't hesitate to make the change if banks don't aim to please or fail in their attempts. The aforementioned Ipsos survey revealed that approximately 20 percent of respondents had switched banks within the last 12 months because of in-branch services that weren't up to snuff. 

It isn't just a variety of loan products, speedy services, generous interest rates and opportunities for feedback that customers want either. They seek a branch that's aesthetically pleasing and intuitively laid out. For example, 70 percent of respondents in the Ipsos poll said they'd be inclined to switch banks if the interiors looked unprofessional. This may explain why more branches have optimized their layouts to be more open concept, making the banking experience feel more intimate and personalized.

BranchServ specializes in making customers feel special. We do this by providing the services that branches and credit unions need to go above and beyond to ensure regulars get what they seek – and more – whenever they step inside or reach the drive-thru window. From automation solutions, electronic and physical security to integration assistance, BranchServ leaves no stone unturned by filling in the gaps so financial institutions can make customers remain the focal point.

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