By Kevin Tweddle
Community banks have gotten it right again.
With the evolution of technology and the rise of a movement to all digital-banking, others within the industry have been chasing new channels with fervor trying to find the silver bullet that ensures their relevancy. And, while this frenzy has grown, community banks have held steadfast, retaining their focus not solely on shiny new trends or technology, but on what their customers need.
They know the secret behind continued success lies in the customer relationship, which is part and parcel why they’re considered by many to be America’s lender of choice. In fact, the recently released American Customer Satisfaction Index’s Finance, Insurance, and Health Care Report revealed community banks as the highest-performing institutions in financial services, and garnering the highest rating across industries. When the report dove into the customer experience, community banks dominated, with the report concluding, “Community banks continue to provide the best service by far to their customers in most areas. For personalized services, small banks excel as both staff courtesy (89) and in-branch service speed (87) outpace super regional and national banks by significant margins.”
The founder of computer giant Dell, Michael Dell, once said, “Our business is about technology, yes. But it's also about operations and customer relationships.” The same can be said for community banking. And that’s why community banks continue to thrive.
In evaluating new solutions, community bankers ask themselves, “How will this enhance or support my customer relationship?” That’s the lens through which all new business concepts—digital solutions or technology enhancements are viewed. By staying true to their mission to provide superior service for both human and digital interactions, community banks continue to flourish and position themselves well for the future.
Even digital natives — Gen Z — continue to note the importance of interpersonal communications. For example, 48 percent of Gen Z respondents in the Raddon Research report, Generation Z: The Kids Are All Right, indicate they prefer to do their banking face-to-face with an employee. The study also talks about the importance of financial education to this new generation: 56 percent of respondents say that these programs are very or extremely important sources of personal finance information. Who better to provide this education than their trusted community bank, with whom they already have a relationship?
Community banks bridge the gap between the personal and the digital, landing in the sweet spot that helps differentiate them from all other financial providers.
If community bankers continue to focus on the things they can simplify for their customers—like onboarding and application processes or payment transactions—those customers will continue walking away saying, “I love my bank.” And that’s the kind of relationship that stands the test of time.
Kevin Tweddle is ICBA Services Network’s Chief Operations Officer.