The Most Useless Research Stat: Consumer Channel Preferences

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Quick two-question survey:

  1. Do you think that banks and credit unions should continue to increase their investment in the mobile channel? (Y/N)
  2. Do you think the “voice of the customer” is important for bank and credit unions to pay attention to? (Y/N)

If you said YES to both questions, you have a small problem (if you didn’t say YES to both questions, you have a big problem, and should leave this blog now and seek immediate help).

I can’t imagine that you would say NO to Q1. I can imagine, however, that you might hedge on Q2 and say there are times when the voice of the customer is more important than at other times.

Quit picking nits.

The problem is that there is very credible consumer research that — taken at face value — suggests that the mobile channel is not very important to financial services customers.


Gallup recently surveyed consumers and asked about their channel preferences for 14 different types of banking interactions.

Before we take a look at the data, let me just say that the fact that Gallup asked about preferences for specific types of interactions makes their study head and shoulders better than most other studies, which don’t capture this level of detail.

Here’s what Gallup found:

Source: Gallup Business Journal, How Consumers Interact With Their Banks

There are a number of conclusions you might draw from this:

1. Consumers want to open accounts in a branch. After all, eight in ten consumers said they prefer to open accounts there.

2. Many consumers want to get in a car and drive to their bank every time they have a problem. Well, half of the consumers surveyed did say that they prefer to report a problem or annoyance in person or at a branch.

3. The mobile channel is the second-least important banking channel. Least important honors goes to online chat — not a single respondent listed it as their preferred channel for any of the interactions. But the mobile channel didn’t fare much better. The interaction type that the mobile channel got the most votes for was receiving alerts, but the 3% who preferred mobile pales in comparison to the 29% who want alerts to come to them 3-5 days later from the US Postal Service (for chrissakes, these idiots could walk down to their bank and get the news sooner).


This is what the data says. It’s the “voice of the customer.” Can’t argue with it.

Sorry, @brettking, branches aren’t dead. People prefer to open accounts there. Sorry, @jimmarous, but all those studies you tweet and blog about that show that consumers prefer direct mail to other channels are wrong — it’s only true for receiving statements.

And for all you bankers and creditunionistas who keep investing in mobile banking capabilities, apparently you’re wasting your money. Nobody (except for a less-than-handful of weirdos) prefers the mobile channel for anything.


Further analysis from Gallup (to find out what that analysis is, you’ll have to read the article for yourself — it’s not the job of this blog to save your lazy ass from doing a little work) led them to conclude:

‘Migrating customers from channels they prefer to use to channels they don’t may lower their engagement with their bank. Consequent declines in satisfaction and engagement could result in loss of revenue, profitability, and customer retention.”

My take: That’s a bit of a leap.

Forcing customers to use certain channels, preventing customers from using certain channels, and poor experiences in non-preferred channels may all lead to problems and issues.

But the term “migration” implies — at least to me –that there is a process, logic, and/or business rationale behind it. Paying customers (in the form of rewards, higher rates, or lower fees) shouldn’t lead to loss of profitability if the amount paid is less than the cost savings realized.

In addition, consumers who have never tried to complete a particular interaction in a particular channel is never going to say that channel is preferred — until they try it and find out that it really is a better channel for them. 


Bottom line: Consumer channel preference is the most useless research stat out there.

Image via flickr

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