Do brand promises really influence customer satisfaction? The case of the big four banks

The post Why brand authenticity is critical for customer satisfaction outlined the perspective that customer satisfaction is a product of brand authenticity.  That is, if what a brand has and does clearly supports and lives up to its brand promise then its customers are more likely to be satisfied.  This post explores the validity of that proposal by comparing the authenticity of the Big Four banks’ brand promises with their customer satisfaction ratings.

The banks’ authenticity ‘rankings’

In the post Can the Commonwealth Bank’s “Can” beat the other big four banks I reviewed the authenticity of the brand promises of the major banks.  In summary this concluded:

NAB was the current ‘authenticity leader’ based on the support given to its “More give, less take” promise by such initiatives as the abolishment of various fees and its lower home loan rate.

Commonwealth Bank was the most likely challenger to the NAB on the basis that its superior technical systems should allow it to credibly build its “Can” positioning.

The ANZ’s “We live in your world” positioning, built on the premise of bringing “banking to your fingertips in more convenient ways you never knew you needed”, is a hard to prove promise (arguably an overpromise) that is probably a step too far beyond its previously successful – and far more evidenced – promise of being “Australia’s most convenient bank”.

Westpac’s recently defunct “If you know what, we know how” promise was based on capabilities and tools common to most other banks, so while ‘authentic’ didn’t have enough value to make a substantial difference to customers.

Authenticity versus Satisfaction

Below are the banks’ overall satisfaction ratings according to Roy Morgan’s most recent (October 2012) Consumer Banking in Australia Customer Satisfaction Report.

Roy Morgan Research Consumer Banking Satisfaction Report, October 2012

On face value, there appears to be a relationship between their authenticity and satisfaction rankings.  Further, it could be argued that the changes to the banks’ satisfaction ratings over time may be related to their shifts to more (or less) ‘authentic’ promises.  In brief:

NAB, in line with its assessed authenticity leadership, achieved the highest satisfaction rating of 80.4% (which is the highest score achieved by a Big Four bank since the series began in 1996).  Notably the upturn towards its current rating coincided with the launch of its “More give, less take” promise in March 2010 with a breakaway from its five-year satisfaction range of 65% to 70%.

Commbank, in line with its number two authenticity rank, has the second highest satisfaction rating.  It has been trending upwards since 2007 driven by the bank’s “Determined to be #1” customer service strategy.  This strategy was supported between 2008 and 2012 by featuring various customer service commitments in the bank’s “Determined to be different” campaign; thereby building brand authenticity around its customer service.  Its new “Can” positioning is now adding its technical capabilities to its people capabilities, leading to the previously stated conclusion that moving forward it is the ‘one to watch’.

Westpac’s third placed satisfaction rating of 76.8% is somewhat better than its long-term and relatively static ‘trading range’ of around 70% to 75%.  It can be argued that over the years that Westpac has been ‘authentic’, in that it has lived up to its various promises.  Its problem has been – as was the case with the most recent version – that these promises haven’t incorporated a compelling point of difference and, in sporadically trying to find one that resonates with consumers, Westpac hasn’t become known for anything in particular.  As a result it has struggled to find brand momentum to support improvements in customer satisfaction.

ANZ’s ‘bottom rating’ of 75.1% is particularly notable.  After years of being the leader in customer satisfaction it has recently been testing its seven year low score.  Putting aside the possibility of a significant decline in actual performance, it may be that the ANZ is simply losing authenticity.  In this case the ratings would be reflecting customer uncertainty about the current brand promise and/or whether its performance matches it.

While by no means claiming that this simplistic ‘analysis’ is robust or conclusive, it does suggest that customers’ beliefs of brand authenticity may be part of the story behind the numbers and worthy of greater consideration in the management of customer satisfaction.

Image Credits: National Australia Bank, Roy Morgan Research

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One thought on “Do brand promises really influence customer satisfaction? The case of the big four banks

  1. Brand promises are just like other promises, they have to be delivered! Unfortunately, globally the reputations of most banks means that they have an extremely difficult task in meeting the expectations of their customers, let alone the lofty heights of their internally-focused naval gazing brand promises.

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