Ease – the effort a customer expends to achieve their goals – continues to decline for banks when it comes to customer service performance, according to the latest SenseCX benchmarking results published by CSBA.

SenseCX is a Quality Assurance framework that measures the quality of customer interactions with organisations, based on three indices – Success, Ease, and Sentiment. Results are published every quarter.

A total of 203 major Australian companies from seven sectors, including 17 banks, were covered in the study. The results, comprising 11,590 independent assessments using 30 key customer-focused behaviours for each interaction, were completed via anonymous telephone conversations with contact centre agents.

In the 12 months from July 2021 to June 2022, the Top 5 Banks performing best in customer service dropped their Ease scores by 0.5 points from 34.7% to 34.2%. The Median Benchmark for Ease was stable (31.9%) while the Bottom 5 Performers’ Average dropped 1.4 points from 29.2% to 27.8%.

Each year, the Median Benchmark for Ease continued to decline, dropping 5.5 points between March 2019 to June 2022, the largest decline in the Ease score across seven sectors. The Top 5 Performers’ Average dropped 6.9 points from 41.1% to 34.2% while The Bottom 5 Performers’ Average fell 6.8 points from 34.6% to 27.8%

Meanwhile, for Sentiment – how the interaction made the customer feel – the Median Benchmark dropped 3.6 points in the same period, also more than any other sector. The Top 5 Performers’ Average fell 6.9 points from 69.1% to 62.2% while the Bottom 5 Performers’ Average fell 0.8 points from 62.2% to 61.4%.

In the 12 months from July 2021 to June 2022, the Top 5 Performers’ Average for Sentiment dropped 3.3 points from 66.3% to 62.2%. The Median Benchmark declined 0.9 points from 62.5% to 61.6% while the Bottom 5 Performers’ Average was stable (61.4%).

Interestingly, the largest decline in Sentiment has come from the Top 5 Performers, resulting in little difference in the performance between the Top 5 Average and the Bottom 5 Average.

CX Director for Finance at CSBA, Sam Monteath, said the latest results show that banks remain heavily focused on compliance to the detriment of the customer experience.

“Agents are not making their interactions with customers easy. Their biggest challenges include driving the interaction; asking pertinent questions; and providing a clear summary of key points and next steps,” she said.

“Emotional connection – for example, an agent offering reassurance or a personalised response – is critical to building trust, which ultimately leads to brand loyalty. Unfortunately, we are not seeing banks prioritise human engagement in their day-to-day customer interactions.”

Customers get resolution, but not easily

Meanwhile, Success – the degree to which the customer can accomplish their goals – made the biggest improvement in the 12 months from July 2021 to June 2022. The Top 5 Performers’ Average improved 3.3 points from 70.7% to 74%, the Median Benchmark improved 1.4 points from 65.3% to 66.7%, and the Bottom 5 Performers’ Average improved 2.5 points from 60.4% to 62.9%.

However, from a longer-term perspective (from March 2019 to June 2022), the Success score only improved for the Top 5 Performers, increasing 2.9 points from 71.1% to 74%. The Median Benchmark fell 2 points from 68.7% to 66.7% while the Bottom 5 Average fell 5.6 points from 68.5% to 62.9%.

Monteath explained that the Success scores show that agents are getting more effective at delivering resolutions for their customers. However, the drop in Ease scores suggests that while they are taking the time to address the customer’s enquiry, they are not making those interactions easy.

“Success is all about discovering the customer’s needs and rectifying problems. But Ease remains a struggle for many agents, primarily due to agents not providing valuable information by answering unasked questions.”

CSBA assessments in the 12 months from July 2021 to June 2022 found that 71% of Banking agents ‘Asked questions related to a query’ while 9% of banking agents ‘Answered unasked questions.’ Compared to 90% and 14% for Education agents, and 81% and 14% for Water agents, for the two behaviours.

The Banking sector is outranked by Education, Commercial, Water, and Energy Distributor sectors

The sector’s top performer, ANZ bank, ranked #32, with an overall score of 61.5%. The other top sector performers were Water (82.8%), Higher Education (81.6%), Local Government (75.5%), Energy (73.7%), Superannuation (63%), and Commercial (62.8%).

Banking’s overall performance remained stable in the 12 months from July 2021 to June 2022, while Education, Commercial, Water, and Energy Distributors showed improvement.

The Median Benchmark Average for Banking was 54.5%, compared to Education which improved 2.8 points to 61.5%, Commercial which improved 3.1 points to 57.4%, Water which improved 0.7 points to 56.8%, and Energy distributors which improved 1.1 points to 53.7%.

And while the Top 5 Performers Average for Banking remained at 57.9%, the Top 5 Performers of other sectors improved for the Local Government (+2.3 points to 67.2%) Water (+1 point to 71.9%), Commercial (+2.8 points to 62%) and Superannuation (+2 points to 57.8%) sectors.

In the period March 2019 to June 2022, Banking made the biggest decline across all sectors – falling 3.2 points from 57.6% to 54.5%.

Time for action

As Monteath puts it simply, banks can’t afford to rest on their laurels at a time when customer expectations are rapidly increasing.

“The pandemic raised the bar for customer expectations. And banks must work harder to build trust by prioritising human engagement,” she said.

“Now’s the time to implement a continuous cycle of improvement using regular analysis and independent feedback on customer interactions.”

For more information on the SenseCX program, email Sam.Monteath@csba.com.au

About CSBA – The Customer Experience Experts

For more than two decades, CSBA has helped organisations of all shapes and sizes create better customer experiences through independent, specialised CX strategy, research, insights, quality assurance, and training.

CSBA now works with more than 150 clients across 15 different industries, including specialised programs for higher education, local government, superannuation, energy, and water sectors.