Customers Ready to Abandon Brick and Mortar Branches? Don’t Bank On It!

December 4, 20174min

Customers of one of the UK’s best-known banks are fearful of a slump in service following news that many branches are to shut.

RBS has announced the looming closure of 62 Royal Bank of Scotland branches, along with 197 NatWest outlets, as a result of the rise in popularity of online and mobile banking.

The move will lead to 680 redundancies, and despite RBS assurances that they remain “committed” to providing high quality services, a survey has revealed most of their customers do not share their optimism.

Customer communication firm Quadient found that 79 percent of RBS customers believed services offered by the bank to account holders would dip in quality.

The findings show that despite the boom in online banking, many customers still prefer a brick and mortar presence in their local high street, according to Quadient Vice President Tim Dimond-Brown. He said:

“With customers’ needs and expectations shifting, and more transactions moving online, these closures may seem a natural evolutionary step. After all, in a TNS survey of 2,064 UK adults this year, 38 percent of people hadn’t visited their local bank for six months or longer. However, banks need to be certain that the shift to online banking they aren’t leaving customers behind. In the same survey, 79 percent of consumers were concerned that customer service would fall as remote banking continues to grow – while 62 percent were only comfortable using banking applications for the most basic tasks, or not at all.”

Outlining where banks can potentially alienate customers in a rush to adopt technology, Tim continued:

In this environment, banks that can reassure and communicate with customers will have a significant advantage. Currently 64 percent of consumers say retailers are streets ahead of banks when it comes to a more personalised customer service. If a bank can tell each customer what they need to hear, when they need to hear it, over a channel they are listening to – whether that’s mail, email or online or, most likely, a combination – then it will find this repaid in happier, more loyal customers.

The online experience doesn’t have to replicate a bank branch – indeed, 56 percent of consumers would prefer it didn’t. With new challenger banks looking to grasp opportunities, and open banking set to make it much easier for consumers to switch banks in 2018, this is the perfect time for banks to ensure they are prepared in providing a customer-centric experience across the channels their customers want.”

However, despite misgivings from many customers, RBS continues to be among the most successful banks to convert users to online and mobile interaction – its mobile app has been downloaded by around five million customers.

An RBS spokesman said a team of “Community Bankers” and technology experts are being deployed in areas affected by branch closures to help advise customers on banking methods, including mobile and online services and accessing RBS services in Post Offices.

Paul Ainsworth

Paul Ainsworth

Experienced Irish journalist and former newspaper editor now helming executive editorial duties with Customer Experience Magazine, the UK's premier online source for Customer Experience news, features, and opinion, along with its sister site, CXM World.

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