Jeff Judy

Jeff's Thoughts - March 13 , 2013

Where All The Banks Are Above Average

One of the most famous of Minnesota exports, in a sense, is "A Prairie Home Companion," a radio show. Each week, host Garrison Keillor shares the news from the fictional town of Lake Wobegon, where, he claims, "all the children are above average."

Now, in recent issues of Jeff's Thoughts we have discussed the challenge of earning our customers' trust, particularly in the light of survey results that show banking to be among the least trusted of all industry sectors. And I have been running this simple poll on my web site:

Given the simple question, "Do you trust [your bank name here] to do the right thing most of the time?", how many of your current and past customers would answer "yes"?

Here are the results, from people who have visited the site and clicked on one of five options:

As you can see, those who responded felt good about the trust they enjoyed from their customers. But how do we reconcile these highly unscientific results with my earlier report of an industry "trust level" of only 50%?

One hint is in those words, "those who responded." If you feel you have the trust of your customers, you are probably much happier to participate in this poll than if you are not confident of their trust. If you are dissatisfied with how your customers see your bank, you might take a pass on answering the poll. So the results are no doubt skewed toward higher levels of trust.

Are some respondents unrealistic about the trust they enjoy among customers? Undoubtedly that happens. Some confuse "trust" with "satisfaction". Customers may be content with how they have been treated in the past, so they are "satisfied." But trust is about the future, about their confidence that they will be satisfied next month and next year.

And that's where the industry's reputation, including the way we appear in the media, comes into play. Even if your customers have generally had a good experience with you, many of them also believe that "banks are banks," and they hear and read plenty of stories indicating that banks are always ready to change their behavior, to alter the rules of the game, in ways that don't benefit those customers.

That's why we really do have to be above average. The baseline for customer expectations is at a low point, for the banking industry. That means we just have to work harder to earn their trust, to give them confidence that they will be pleased with our services in the future.

Achieving that requires a hard-nosed look at what the bank offers, at how customer feedback is gathered, even at the bank's basic values. "Gut feeling" is simply not enough.

What do you think about these poll results? How can more banks be "above average"? What's your explanation for the poll results above, compared to the 50% trust rating found in larger surveys?

I'd love to hear your answers to these questions, so, please, drop me a line at with your thoughts.