One of the major forces behind the migration to online payments is frustration associated with going to the bank to deposit paper checks.  That single sore spot has sparked a flurry of online payment and invoicing adoption which, if used to its full potential, can make going to the bank a thing of the past for business owners.

But that’s not all; subscribing to an online receivables system can also be a major selling point for your business.  In fact, based on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), about 1/4 of consumers are dissatisfied with banks.  The 2010 ACSI satisfaction score for banks in general was 76%.  That’s below other service industries like Express Delivery (i.e. FedEx or UPS) which scored 83% (the highest for a service provider), breweries, which scored 82%, and even internet retail, which scored 80%.  It is tied with cellular telephone service in the bottom third of the list, but above subscription telephone service and airlines which sit at the bottom with only 66% satisfaction.

However, the news for banks is not all bad.  They are improving in one key area—online banking.  The recent U.S. ForeSee Results 2011 Online Banking Study shows that banks of all sizes are making significant strides in customer satisfaction. According to the study, when online banking made its first market push in 2003 satisfaction with it was only 73%, just below the overall banking satisfaction rate of 75% in that year.  By 2008 online banking satisfaction far outpaced banking in general by 7 percentage points (82% for online vs. a flat 75% for banking in general.)

In 2011, online banking satisfaction reached 83% (after dipping to 81% during the 2009-2010 banking crisis).  According to the study, that is one of the highest satisfaction scores among all online industries–  including online retail (80%), online brokerage and online travel (both 78%), online portals and search engines (77%), online new sites (74%), and social media (70%).

The study goes further to report that amongst ways of interacting with a bank, consumers prefer online banking more than all others combined.  55% were most satisfied with online banking, while only 28% were most satisfied with a branch office, 13% with the ATM and 2% the call center and mobile banking.  If you combine these statistics to compare human banking interaction vs. electronic (no human involvement) banking, it becomes clear that people much prefer to carry out banking tasks on their own (about 70%) as opposed to the just under 30% who are most satisfied when dealing with a live person.

That’s not a conclusion the study draws, but it is a valuable one for businesses to note.  Certainly outstanding customer service is a key factor in maintaining satisfied customers.  But, sometimes outstanding customer service can mean leaving the customer alone to take care of business on their own terms.

Think about the last time you wanted to browse through a store.  Were you irritated by a sales clerk who (however well intentioned) repeatedly asked you if you needed help?  Do you ever get that kind of unwanted attention when shopping on Amazon?  That’s the beauty of conducting business online.  Whether it’s buying a book at 2 in the morning, or paying the phone bill at midnight, customers value the ability to conduct business online anytime.

If your business is not catering to this new “online, anytime” expectation, then you’re not providing the best possible customer service.  An easy way to start is to subscribe to an online receivables system that enables you to send electronic invoices, accept online payments, and provide your customers an online portal from which they can manage their account with you, review invoices and receipts, and access a complete invoice and transaction history.   In many cases, you can be up and running in less than a week with a custom solution co-branded for your business.

It is probably safe to say that your small business customers are more satisfied with your service than they are with their bank—but that’s clearly not a very high bar.  And, while dealing with your customer service staff should be considerably more pleasant than many people find dealing with bank tellers, the online banking satisfaction survey clearly shows that customers want to interact with companies online and are more satisfied when they can do that.  So when you evaluate your company’s customer service, be certain to ensure that you are providing not only outstanding personal service but outstanding self-service as well.

Lisa Hephner

Lisa Hephner

My name is Lisa, and I’m the Vice President of Knowledge, responsible for the management of corporate, product, competitor, marketplace, legal, and regulatory knowledge, and creation and dissemination of knowledge tools using these assets to PaySimple prospects, customers, employees, and partners.

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