Angry Customers Likely to Ditch Wells Fargo's Wagon

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Wells Fargo Bank will lose customers in droves because of the scandal over fraudulently opened accounts and other issues, based on the results of an online survey cg42 conducted last week.

More than 85 percent of the respondents -- 1,500 primary customers of the top 10 U.S. retail banks, including 1,000 Wells Fargo customers -- were aware of the scandal.

Only 3 percent of Wells Fargo's customers reported being affected by the scandal, but 30 percent were exploring banking alternatives, and 14 percent already had decided to switch banks because of it, the survey found.

That could place US$212 billion in deposits and $8 billion of Wells Fargo revenue at risk.

However, "a large part of [Wells Fargo's] multiple accounts strategy was to make switching costs higher," noted Edmund Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

"I'd speculate the cg42 poll probably overstates switching by 25 to 50 percent," he told CRM Buyer.

Thirty-six percent of the respondents were 22-34 years old, 28 percent were 36-40, 25 percent were 50-64, and 11 percent were over 65 years old.

Women constituted 52 percent of the respondents.

Wells Fargo will "lose $99 billion in deposits and $4 billion in revenues over the next 12-18 months as a direct result of the scandal," the cg42 report states.

The Pain Will Linger

Community and regional banks stand to gain the most, gleaning a projected $38 billion in deposits and $1.6 billion in revenues over the next 12-18 months, cg42 predicted.

Chase and Bank of America also will benefit, largely due to their national presence.

Twenty-one percent of prospective Wells Fargo customers said they had been very likely or extremely likely to consider doing business with the bank before the scandal, but that figure fell to 3 percent in its aftermath.

The short- and medium-term outlooks for Wells Fargo are gloomy, cg42 said, and the fallout from the scandal "will impact the bank's bottom line for years to come."

There's a very strong correlation between customers' experience with companies and their loyalty to the firms, a Temkin Group survey of 10,000 U.S. consumers found.

Still, all is not lost.

"In our 2015 Temkin Forgiveness Ratings, we found that 41 percent of Wells Fargo customers are likely to forgive the company if it makes mistakes, and less than one-third as many are unlikely to forgive them," noted Bruce Temkin, customer experience transformist at the Temkin Group.

The scandal "won't have an enormous continuing impact if the company takes quick and decisive action and there aren't any new stories about this behavior continuing," he told CRM Buyer.

Wells Fargo has initiated an advertising campaign pledging to regain customer trust. It has fired thousands of low-level employees involved in the scandal, and CEO John Stumpf has stepped down.

That's not enough, U.S. PIRG's Mierzwinski contended. "They need to claw back more money from Stumpf and other executives, and they need to rebuild the trust of their customers with actions, not ads."

The bank should consider his company's C.A.R.E.S. model, suggested Temkin, which consists of the following steps:

It's important that consumers switching to a new bank keep their existing accounts open during the transition, Mierzwinski said.

They should make sure all autopays and direct deposits are activated in their new account, keeping the old one open for several billing cycles.

Also, they should "keep enough money in the old account to cover any inadvertent autopays and lost checks that may come in," Mierzwinski cautioned.

Consumers should go to "a smaller bank or credit union that wants to help them build assets," he said, "not bleed them."

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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