Having been thoroughly bashed last year, bank brand reputations appear to be showing signs of recovery. InÂ American Bankerâ€™s second annual survey, administered by the Reputation Institute, 30 banks showed, on average, positive increases in a range of categories as scored by consumers. While not out of the â€œreputation woodsâ€ yet, banks appear to be paying extra attention to key areas outside of products and services, and that intense focus is equating to higher scores.
Rewinding to last year, American Banker says not even one bank broke the 70-point barrier â€“ the dividing line separating average reputations from strong ones, according to metrics used by the Reputation Institute.Â In fact, the highest score in the 2010 survey was 68.1, for New York Community. This year however, Harris Bank and Zions Bank were two top performers, both seeing scores above 70. So what exactly makes up the scores?
According to the Reputation Institute, consumers evaluate brand reputations based on seven major components:
- Corporate citizenship
- Financial performance
- Perceived workplace environment
- Products and services
How are banks turning those seven dials? Critical marketing and branding decisions could be a factor. Take Harris Bank, which topped the 2011 survey with a score of 73.09, up more than 8 points from last year. According to American Banker, Harris Bank changed its focus to the customer experience, not product sales, and massaged its marketing message from â€œWeâ€™re Here to Helpâ€ to a more active and clear â€œHelping Make Money Make Sense.â€
BBVA Compass saw its ranking jump 11 positions from last year to the number five spot today, the biggest jump of any bank on the list, something its execs attribute to customer service changes, a stronger social media presence and a range of corporate responsibility projects involving nonprofits. (BBVA stands for Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, the Spanish institution that acquired Compass Bancshares in 2007.)
The survey also showed a significant trend in social mediaâ€™s influence on a bankâ€™s reputation, innovation and transparency.
Net net? American Banker says the second annual survey results suggest that â€œreputation is starting to look more like a point of differentiation.â€
And that could be a welcome change from a product-focused â€œfree checkingâ€ approach.