Relationship Retention and Enhancement

High-Touch and High-Tech Channels

Customer Service, Rewards, and Communication

Key Finding from a Previous Report:

In the 2015 Phoenix Synergistics survey, Checking Account Acquisition and Retention, only a minority of checking holders considered their main checking account to be their most important long-term financial relationship and would give this institution most of their financial business. How can providers improve loyalty and strengthen customer relationships?

Research Description and methodology

This study examines consumer loyalty with regard to financial providers.  The key drivers of loyalty, including customer service, rewards, communication, and channels are assessed.

National Internet Survey – The survey will include 1,500 online interviews with consumers age 18 or older.

Key Dates

June 23, 2017 – Charter fee/Intro pricing ends.

June 23, 2017 – Final acceptance of comments on questionnaire.

August 2017 – Initial results available.

September 2017 – Project Report available.

Strategic Objectives

  • Profile consumers’ financial provider and service relationships. Determine the factors by which consumers consider a financial institution to be main or primary. Assess the breadth of account and service relationships with main or primary providers and the degree of relationship fragmentation.
  • Examine in more depth details of the main provider relationship – including number of years have had the relationship, channels used, reasons for maintaining the relationship, and first account opened. Measure overall satisfaction as well as ratings of main provider features and attributes.
  • Assess recent account opening behavior – type of account or service, time frame in which opened, main or other provider, reasons for provider selection. Evaluate the near-term market for accounts and services and the competitive position  of the main provider to capture these relationships.
  • Probe recent main provider switching behavior – extent and reasons for doing so. Assess the impact of branch closings. Gauge the potential for switching in the next year and reasons why.
  • Examine in detail aspects of customer loyalty – including the position of the main provider when considering new accounts and services, self-perception of loyalty to the main provider and other providers, reasons for this loyalty, and likelihood of recommending the main provider to family, friends or colleagues. Evaluate the impact of media reports and role of social media.
  • Evaluate the impact of experience with alternative financial providers on the environment for customer loyalty. Measure the potential for nonbank organizations as financial services providers.
  • Determine which consumer segments exhibit the strongest traits of customer loyalty – as well as those who do not – in terms of demographic, behavioral, or attitudinal identifiers.

Research Issues

  • Following the great recession and financial crisis, many financial institutions (FIs) suffered an erosion of consumer trust and loyalty.  With the recovery, FIs have been working to re-establish consumer trust, which is essential to customer loyalty.  But what is at the heart of customer loyalty – customer service, rewards, communication programs, channels, or inertia?  Some industry experts feel that channels, particularly online and mobile options, create “stickiness” in customer relationships.
  • There is also the argument that high-touch elements engender greater customer loyalty and longevity.  Branch location has typically been very important in account acquisition – but what role does this play in customer retention?  Is exceptional customer service seen as a value-added feature or an expectation?  Many providers offer reward programs to keep their customers using the institution’s products and services.  How important are communication programs in instilling customer loyalty? What role does inertia play in loyalty?
  • Which of these various aspects is most important in driving customer loyalty and retention?  How does a customer’s NPS score affect loyalty? Winning the loyalty of customers provides a lifetime of opportunities for cross-selling and broadening relationships.  Understanding the drivers of consumer loyalty is essential in developing and implementing successful acquisition and retention strategies.


Building and Expanding Relationships

Communication Strategies

Multi-Channel Integration

Key Finding from a Previous Phoenix SYNERGISTICS Research Survey:

According to the 2015 Phoenix SYNERGISTICS study, Checking Account Acquisition and Retention Strategies, more than four in ten of those who opened their checking account first at their institution say they obtained another account within the first six months.

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Highlights of the Study

This study examines the consumer experience with the onboarding process including communication strategies and contact methods, cross-selling and follow-up. The fragmentation of consumer banking relationships is also explored.

National Internet Survey – The survey will include 1,000 online interviews with consumers age 18 or older.

Key Dates

November 25, 2016 – Charter fee/Intro pricing ends.

November 25, 2016 – Final acceptance of comments on questionnaire.

February 2017 – Project Report available.

Strategic Questions

  • How widespread and numerous are multiple account/service relationships with the main financial provider among consumer households? To what extent do checking accounts play a “lead role”  in this?
  • What is the profile of recent account opening activity – within the past five years – among consumer households? What accounts or services have been obtained?  Did comparison shopping take place?  Which channels or sources of information were utilized?  What product or provider features were important?  Which application channels were used?
  • Did consumers experience onboarding tactics during their most recent account opening – such as being asked about their additional financial needs, being informed about other accounts and services, or receiving welcome materials? Were other accounts and services obtained as a result of these efforts and what types?  Were other ancillary or value-added services obtained or used as a result of onboarding tactics?
  • What experience have consumers had with onboarding tactics during a short time frame after their most recent account opening? How soon were they contacted and by what channels?  What were the outcomes of these contacts in terms of obtaining any additional accounts or services or using any ancillary or value-added services?
  • What attitudinal or perceptual factors impact the onboarding process? Are customers receptive to being asked about their needs or do they regard it as an invasion of privacy?  How often do they want to be contacted by their institution, if at all?   What is the position of the main provider relationship in terms of obtaining additional accounts and services?
  • What preferences do consumers have for future financial shopping and onboarding activities – in terms of information channels and content, application methods, follow-up messages, and time frame for follow-up contact?
  • Are certain consumer segments more receptive to onboarding than others?  Are there indicators – such as demographic, behavioral, or attitudinal traits – that are useful for designing and targeting onboarding strategies and tactics?

Research Issues

  • Onboarding programs are receiving a great deal of attention in today’s financial marketplace.  These programs are designed to develop and enhance financial relationships from inception.  In essence, onboarding is a short-term strategy that can lead to long-term and loyal relationships.  There are a number of steps that can be part of the onboarding process.
  • The first step is often an assessment of customer needs when the product or service is first purchased.  This step can be followed with some form of thanking the customer for the purchase.  A series of steps can follow such as inquiries about product usage, satisfaction, and problems or concerns.  These steps can utilize a variety of forms of communication from traditional mail, email, telephone calls, as well as a mix of channels. It is valuable for these contacts to occur early in the relationship and that they are personal and frequent. As a result of these contacts, cross selling can either follow or additional sales may be an adjunct to the onboarding process.
  • While most onboarding is associated with checking accounts, purchases of all types of financial products and services may benefit from the onboarding process.  In developing and implementing onboarding programs, it is essential for providers to understand the consumer perspective. How do consumers respond to the onboarding process?  Do consumers consider some steps as valuable, while others are seen as too much of a good thing?  What channels are preferred?  This Phoenix SYNERGISTICS survey will examine these issues as well as others to provide financial institutions with clearer insight into the consumer perspective on the onboarding and sales process. [F250]


Credit Cards, Debit Cards, and Checking

Revenue vs. Relationship Building

Custom and Combined Rewards

Key Finding from the Report:

Results from SYNERGISTICS 2014 study, Optimizing Reward Programs, revealed the extent of participation in various reward programs.  Credit card reward programs were most widespread, followed by debit card and checking relationship rewards. The 2016 survey will reveal any change in consumer participation in various reward programs.

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Highlights of the Study

This study evaluates the consumer perspective on reward programs for financial services including credit and debit cards and checking.  It examines reaction to pricing, custom reward programs, and combined reward programs.

National Internet Survey – 1,000 consumers age 18 or older.

Key Dates

June 24, 2016 – Charter fee/Intro pricing ends.

June 24, 2016 – Final acceptance of comments on questionnaire.

September 2016 – Project Report available.

Strategic Questions

  • How should financial institutions evaluate and assess the current state of their reward programs? What results are the best measures of success – greater market share, strengthened relationships, or increased fee income?
  • What is consumers’ current behavior profile in terms of usage of reward credit cards? Is usage of multiple reward cards a factor in the market and what is driving this?  Is there revenue potential in marketing reward cards?  Do premium or prestige credit cards represent the next step in reward credit cards?
  • Is there potential for a resurgence in debit card rewards? To what extent do consumers participate in these programs and how much appeal do they have?  Are combined debit and credit card reward programs a viable option?
  • How strong is the potential for relationship-based reward programs tied to checking activity? What has been the experience of consumers with these programs?  Are these programs effective in terms of increased customer activity, new account openings, and relationship retention?
  • What is the current attitudinal and behavioral environment impacting the design and positioning of reward programs? Do consumers prefer lower-value rewards that are given quickly or those with higher value that build over time?  What perceived advantages or benefits can be incorporated into marketing strategies and tactics?
  • What is the experience with and potential for innovative reward programs and delivery methods — including customized rewards, experiential rewards, and targeted messages or alerts based on spending patterns and preferences? Is there receptivity to mobile apps for managing and optimizing reward programs?
  • Do certain reward programs appeal to specific market segments in a way that can be used for positioning and targeting?  Are there consumer segments that represent wider potential for strengthened relationships or revenue opportunities?

Research Issues

  • Rewards have become an almost essential element for many financial services, particularly card products.  They have become an expectation among consumers and now represent the cost of doing business for many providers.  Over the years, the types of rewards that are popular have fluctuated, being influenced by economic factors and changing consumer opinions.  Are certain types of rewards now more popular to certain age and household income segments.
  • Rewards can be associated with credit cards, debit cards, checking accounts, and various other financial accounts and services.  Some reward programs are tied to balances, while others depend on frequency or volume of product or channel usage.  In some cases, consumers have the option to customize their reward experience by selecting rewards or other features of a product or service.  In addition, rewards may be combined based on usage of multiple financial accounts and services – such as usage of credit and debit cards.
  • In developing reward programs, providers need to identify their objectives – fee revenue, account acquisition or customer loyalty and retention.  This study examines consumer usage of and reaction to reward programs for financial services such as credit cards, debit cards, and checking accounts. Relationship and balanced-based rewards, as well as opportunities for fee revenue and account retention and acquisition are evaluated.  This study will help providers gain an understanding of consumer preferences, attitudes, expectations, and behavior patterns, which will assist providers in revitalizing their reward programs. [F245]


Consumer Experience

Education and Communication Strategies

Security Measures and Privacy Policies

Key Finding from the Report:

Results from SYNERGISTICS 2014 study, Security and Privacy Issues in a Digital Age, found that a significant minority of Internet households have experienced some type of fraud or identity theft, an increase since 2006.

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Highlights of the Study

This study examines consumer experience with security and privacy issues related to financial accounts and services.  Consumer reaction to education and communication programs, security measures, and privacy policies is also assessed.

National Internet Survey – 992 consumers age 18 or older.

Key Dates


Spring 2016 – Project Report available.

Strategic Questions

  • How do consumers approach security and privacy on a daily basis, if at all?  Have activities such as shredding documents, monitoring balances, opting out of direct mail, and regularly changing passwords become commonplace?  Is there now more concern about financial security and privacy in comparison to two years ago?
  • Which channels for conducting banking activities are consumers most concerned about in terms of security and privacy?  What are consumers’ top concerns for online banking and bill payment?  How wide is consumers’ actual experience with online shopping fraud, identity theft, or account fraud?  Can providers implement measures or procedures that consumers will see as valuable to improve security?
  • Do the privacy policies of financial providers receive any attention from customers?  How proactive are consumers in terms of choosing how personal information is shared by their providers or in opting in or out of receiving marketing messages?  How satisfied are consumers with the security and privacy measures of their financial providers?
  • Do consumers use credit report monitoring services?  Is identity theft insurance widely used?  What providers are used for these services?  How wide is the potential for future adoption?
  • Have security and privacy concerns affected consumers’ payment card behavior?  Are they aware of the liability associated with fraudulent use of their debit or credit cards?  Do they use one particular card for online shopping?  How receptive are they to an “on/off” capability?
  • How do consumers view biometric forms of identification such as fingerprint scanners, facial recognition, or voice recognition?  Are these seen as viable for accessing a payment account at the point of sale or accessing accounts online?
  • Are security and privacy concerns generally widespread or are they heightened among certain demographic or behavioral segments?  Which segments might be more prone to adopt advanced security capabilities such as biometrics?

Research Issues

  • Keeping fraudsters at bay is becoming more difficult in the face of evolving technology, and financial institutions are constantly evaluating new ways to keep their customers’ financial information safe and secure.  Recent security breaches at retailers and other organizations have heightened consumers’ awareness and sensitivity to the possibility that their personal and financial information could be compromised.
  • In response to rising fraudulent activity, many providers have been intensifying their security tactics and exploring new techniques to safeguard consumers’ personal and financial information.  Some providers are considering biometric security measures as a replacement for traditional usernames and passwords.  Many have implemented fraud education and awareness pages on their websites to inform and educate consumers on how to protect themselves from fraudulent activity such as ATM card skimming, phishing, and ID theft.
  • Credit report monitoring, fraud alerts, and identity theft insurance are also available for consumers through various financial institutions and other agencies.  Privacy policies are important in this security-conscious environment.  Some financial institutions are seeking to improve these notices by making them more consumer friendly.  It is important for providers to gain a clear understanding of the current consumer perspective and experience with regard to security and privacy issues in order to optimize their strategies for the future. [A86]


Pricing and Product Design

Online and Mobile Access

Packages; Value-Added Services

Key Finding from the Report:

Results from SYNERGISTICS 2015 study, Checking Account Acquisition and Retention, found that most checking holders believe they have a free account with no monthly fees or service charges, no minimum balance requirements, and no transaction charges. A minority are aware their account has fees or service charges that can be waived by meeting certain requirements.  To what extent do consumers still perceive they have free checking?

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Highlights of the Study

This study evaluates the consumer checking account market exploring strategies for designing checking products.  It examines pricing, packaging, access methods, value-added features, and online services.


National Internet Survey – 1,000 consumers age 18 or older.

Key Dates

April 29, 2016 – Charter fee/Intro pricing ends.

April 29, 2016 – Final acceptance of comments on questionnaire.

July 2016 – Project Report available.

Strategic Questions

  • Do household checking accounts continue to fit the conventional image of being a stable financial relationship? What degree of volatility exists in terms of recent account opening or share shifting?  What are the factors or motivations influencing any market movement?  Is multiple checking account usage an issue in the marketplace?
  • Can providers strengthen the checking account relationship with various “value-added” services and benefits? Is there positive response to relationship reward programs?  How important are features such as free ATM access, overdraft protection, and debit card “on/off” capability?
  • To what extent has the checking account become an online or digital experience for certain customer segments? What is the behavior profile in terms of devices used and activities performed in the digital environment?  Does there continue to be growth in adoption of mobile RDC?  Is there potential for digital “no check” accounts?
  • Are there opportunities to improve customers’ satisfaction with the checking account relationship? How wide is satisfaction overall?  What specific features or aspects – such as customer service, pricing, or access channels – represent areas for possible improvement?
  • Should providers be concerned about converting the small segment of consumers who do not have checking accounts? What reasons or motivations drive this non-adoption?  Can this segment’s needs be met by alternative products?
  • What checking account pricing arrangements have been accepted by consumers? Is there still a wide perception of free checking in the market?  How receptive are consumers to alternative fees, minimum balances, or activity requirements for various checking features or benefits?
  • How should checking account design be tailored to specific customer segments?  Can checking account features, services, and benefits be “matched” to certain demographic, behavioral, or attitudinal traits?

Research Issues

  • Checking accounts are the heart of most financial relationships.  Today, depository institutions can offer an array of checking account products ranging from basic to more complex versions. Accounts can be designed and promoted for specific segments such as teens and students, while virtual checking accounts have been designed to appeal to millennials. Additionally, there are premium level checking accounts designed for high balance customers.  Mobile apps that link checking and savings accounts are also appearing. In addition, a variety of features can be provided including overdraft protection, account management tools, and rewards.
  • Checking account providers promote the convenience aspects of checking accounts and the ability to make deposits with a mobile device.  While the days of totally free checking may be behind us, many consumers have accounts that are fee-free but have balance and transaction activity requirements.  Free access to ATMs nationwide can be an extremely attractive checking account feature. Overdraft protection is an important aspect of checking accounts.
  • Providers now offer the ability to apply for checking accounts online, as well as features to encourage switching behavior.  While applying online is convenient, it also represents a missed opportunity for developing a face-to-face relationship.  For some consumers, traditional checking accounts may be a thing of the past.  As new types of accounts and features continue to appear, it is important for depository institutions to measure consumer behavior, attitudes, expectations, and needs. [F244]


Consumer Decision Process
Onboarding and Cross-selling
Relationship Strategies; Pricing

Key Finding from a Recent SYNERGISTICS Research Survey:

A majority of checking account holders have multiple accounts with their main checking provider – how will your organization retain these important customers?

The 2013 survey Relationship Strategies for Checking Accounts revealed that more than half of checking account holders have multiple accounts with their main checking provider.  Incidence of multiple accounts tends to increase somewhat with household income.

Highlights of the Study

This study evaluates the checking account relationship in order to assist providers in developing effective acquisition and retention programs.  It examines onboarding and cross-selling, packages and value-added services, reward programs, and pricing issues.

National Internet Survey – 1,000 consumers age 18 or older.


Key Dates

October 24, 2014 – Charter fee/Intro pricing ends.
October 24, 2014 – Final acceptance of comments on questionnaire.
January 2015 – Project Report available.


Strategic Questions

  • What factors influence the stability or volatility of households’ main checking account relationships?  What are the motivations or reasons for recent account opening?  How prevalent is recent provider switching in the market and what has driven this activity?   Why do some households use multiple checking accounts, and is this a challenge or opportunity?
  • What “value-added” strategies should providers explore to strengthen the checking account relationship?  What are customers’ experiences with and perceptions of relationship reward programs?  Are PFM services widely valued?  Should identity protection services be offered to customers?
  • Is the checking account a “gateway” for providers to cross-sell other financial products and services to their customers?  How extensive has this activity been?  Are onboarding strategies successful?  Are checking packages an effective tool for strengthening and expanding customer relationships?
  • Are customers satisfied with their household’s main checking account?  Are there specific aspects of the account relationship – such as customer service, pricing, or access channels – where satisfaction is in need of improvement?   How important is the checking relationship to customers when shopping for other accounts and services?
  • How large is the segment of the market that does not have checking accounts?  What are their reasons for non-usage and can they be converted?   What is the overall market for new checking account openings in the near term?
  • Is free checking still an expectation among consumers?  Beyond traditional pricing, how acceptable are fees, minimum balances, or activity requirements for various checking features or benefits?
  • Which customer identifiers – demographic, behavioral, or attitudinal traits – will be useful to checking providers for designing acquisition and retention strategies?  Do specific product features or benefits – such as rewards, PFM services, or packages – have unique appeal to specific segments?


Research Issues

  • Checking accounts are the heart of consumer financial relationships.  Checking account providers typically enjoy the position as the primary financial services provider.  Recently, a variety of non-traditional providers have been entering the checking account market such as Walmart and a variety of direct or Internet-based providers. Therefore, it is essential for providers to carefully assess checking account acquisition and retention strategies.
  • What factors impact the consumer decision process when selecting a checking account provider?  Do these factors remain important as the relationship continues?  Onboarding and cross-selling programs go hand in hand in expanding relationships.  Onboarding occurs in the early stages of a relationship, while cross-selling programs should be ongoing.  A variety of channels can be utilized for both onboarding and cross-selling ranging from the branch to mobile options.
  • What relationship strategies beyond cross-selling and onboarding can be effective for engaging checking account customers?   Do consumers respond to checking packages, reward programs, and value-added services?  Checking account pricing is an ongoing issue, particularly as free checking offers have all but disappeared.  Instead several large banks have recently announced all-digital, no fee checking accounts.  A significant number of consumers have multiple accounts with their main checking provider.  However, this may be impacted by competition in a rising rate environment.  This project will evaluate the checking account relationship in order to assist providers in developing effective acquisition and retention programs. [F228]