Satisfied but disloyal: the young tech-savvy customer puzzle

John Kavanagh

Banks have always been able to rely on the loyalty of customers who are prepared to recommend their financial institution to others and those who have an above-average number of products. Those two groups are usually classified as "sticky"  -  but researcher RFi has found few "stickers" among young customers using digital channels to do their banking.

RFi found that the average age of Australian customers who use three digital devices (computer, smartphone and tablet) for banking is 35.4 years, while the average age of customers who do not use digital banking services is 48.3.

Customers using three digital devices have an average of 2.6 products with their main bank, compared with 2.1 products for customers who don't do digital banking.

Customers who use three digital devices rate the likelihood that they will recommend their bank between seven and eight out of ten, while customers who don't do digital rate that likelihood between six and seven.

So far so good. Any bank would want a cohort of young, tech-savvy customers who sign up for more products and like the institution.

However, these customers turn out to be the ones who have switched banks more than any others and have the highest propensity to switch in future.

When RFi asked people how likely they were to switch banks, among those whose main account relationship was their transaction account 24.3 of the customers using digital services said they were likely to switch, compared with 10.3 per cent for the non-digital customers.

And among customers whose main account relationship was their home loan 30.6 per cent of the customers using digital services said they were likely to switch, compared with 18.5 per cent for the non-digital customers.

RFi consulting director Sheree Rudinger said it was not clear whether this behaviour was a reflection of the fact that these customers were young and their banking relationships were evolving.

It was also possible that the emergence of digital banking had created a fickle, tech-savvy group of customers who were always in search of the hot new app or device.

Rudinger said banks needed to find new ways to build engagement with this group. She suggested encouraging them to trial new devices and services.

"Keep developing the digital offering in a way that will resonate with 25 to 34 year olds," she said.