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Is self-service the future of retail?


As consumers, we go to great lengths to find the best deals from banks and retailers — and we tend to stick around when we find service tailored to our needs. Thus claims a new survey comparing Australians with retail consumers around the world.

The survey, which was commissioned by NCR Corporation, looks at the importance of self-service, personalisation, and technology when choosing a brand.

Sixty-nine percent of survey respondents in Australia said that they had switched retailers in order to get the best deals, better prices or more loyalty rewards.

At the same time, nearly nine in ten respondents said they would stay loyal to a brand if it gives them more personalised interaction and control. NCR, a developer of self-service technology, cites ATMs, do-it-yourself checkouts in supermarkets, and airline check-in kiosks as examples.

The survey covered 2,500 respondents in five countries: Australia, Canada, the US, India and the UK. This is the third consecutive year NCR has conducted the research.

NCR claims that Australians have accepted self-checkouts at nearly twice the rate of European and US shoppers.

A growing number of shoppers are also integrating social media trends into their habits: 38 percent said they wanted personalised service from brands through popular outlets such as Facebook and Twitter.

“NCR’s survey shows that while the global financial crisis has made consumers keener to shop around for a better deal, they still value individual, personalised service across all channels,” said Ross Checkley, managing director for NCR Corporation in the South Pacific. “Australians are increasingly expecting service choice – to have their preferences understood by companies and to be able to decide where and how they interact with them.”

Other findings:

  • Thirty-nine percent of Australians would choose bank branches that offered them self-service for transactions like bill payments, deposits and statement printing. One reason is that consumers are time poor, with a third of bank customers saying they would choose branches that allowed them to get in and out faster. Service times can be made 40% speedier with smart technology that allows ATM customers to withdraw their favourite amount.
  • Innovative time-saving banking technologies are also gaining in popularity, with 44 percent of people expressing a desire to pay bills with their mobile phone. More than a quarter said they were open to using their mobile as an ‘electronic wallet’ for low-value payments.

“Last year we saw that Australians were looking not only for flexibility on price, but in the way they paid for their products. This year, the emphasis on cost and self-service convenience remains, but consumers also expect companies to have an understanding of their individual tastes across all channels,” said Checkley.

Banking Index shows strong preferences for regional, online banks

With an appropriate nod toward the consumer looking for the best deal, an Australian advisory services firm has released a new consumer resource for comparing and contrasting banking services.

Banking4u, introduced on Tuesday, 3 August, is “a new set of indices that independently assess customer service in the banking sector … based on the opinions of more than 20,000 Australians,” according to the developer, Retail Finance Intelligence (RFI).

The results show the big four banks being outperformed by regional and online banks.

The rankings reflect customer opinion in the areas of current accounts, credit cards, savings accounts, loans and mortgages.

Overall, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank showed the strongest performance in the rankings, while Bankwest and Suncorp also consistently fared well. Among the bigger institutions, only NAB and ANZ came out near the top.

Alan Shields, Research Director for RFI, explained in a media release that the index arose from “a need for one, consistent set of standards to be applied across all institutions and products,” as each bank tends to apply its own definitions.

“The metrics we have introduced look at every major aspect of the consumer banking experience, from the satisfaction a customer feels in their bank to the likelihood that they would recommend it to a friend,” said Shields.

He said he expected Banking4u will serve a double benefit for both parties – “to help customers accurately assess the products which offer the best service; and to assist banking institutions in improving their offerings.”

Image by dnfisher (David Fisher)

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