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Study: Millennials Call Their Bank More Than Twice as Often as Boomers

December 1 – Who is more likely to contact their bank’s call center – millennials or boomers? The answer may surprise you. The report by Bain & Company, titled Bank Branch/Call Center Traffic Jam, asked “why do customers keep visiting tellers and calling the contact center?”

The report reveals that while mobile adoption is high at 82 percent among millennials, 86 percent still visited a teller in the last three months and 60 percent called the contact center. Among those 55 and older, only 42 percent contacted their bank via phone. Younger customer also call more frequently: on average, they called their bank 1.4 times over a three month period, while older customers called only 0.5 times.

Among older consumers that use mobile banking, nearly half say they like the experience, versus about 40 percent of those 18-34. Clearly, they embrace mobile technology once they try it, but few receive much-needed guidance and information about using their bank’s mobile apps. This situation creates an untapped opportunity for banks that understand how to reach both ends of the generation spectrum — and everyone in between. Yet, some banks are still missing the mark, putting $70 million to $80 million of potential savings at risk for a typical U.S. bank with 1,000 branches.

“It’s well known by now that digital self-service is much more cost-effective for banks — about one-tenth the cost of a teller visit or live phone call,” said Gerard du Toit, head of Bain’s Banking Practice and lead author of the report. “Even with that knowledge, and despite the increasing power and presence of mobile, U.S. banks have a long way to go to realize the promise of digital self-service.”

According to Bain’s survey of 5,300 U.S. banking consumers, Millennials are typically much more familiar with digital and mobile technology. However, they are still on the banking learning curve. Bill paying, depositing checks, transferring money and resolving issues with their accounts are new terrain — both online and off. As a result, they report that digital channels are confusing or inadequate for their banking, and they often need help. Among the heaviest teller users, for instance, 42 percent of the younger ones tried using another channel before visiting the branch.

Boomers, on the other hand, have deep banking experience, but they are often less familiar with digital technology and need additional support grow comfortable with self-banking. Bain found that half of older customers still use tellers through force of habit, and 75 percent of these visits are for routine interactions that can be done more quickly and efficiently by self-service. Yet, only a mere 17 percent of older respondents said they have received any guidance or training on how to use their bank’s mobile app, compared to 26 percent of young respondents. Consequently, this group is less than half as likely as younger consumers to use mobile apps or mobile browsers to do their banking.

“Banks are missing a major opportunity to teach young consumers to bank and older consumers to self-bank,” said du Toit. “Boomers in particular are ripe for mobile conversion. They just lack support and help from their banks to make the leap. Perhaps banks assume seniors are not interested or have decided that providing guidance is too much trouble, but they need to overcome their ‘unconscious ageism’ if they want to survive the mobile disruption.”

Migrating customers — regardless of age — to digital as well as better serving them through online and mobile tools could reduce the routine transactions that add costly volume in branches and call centers. Almost three-quarters of reported branch transactions and more than half of phone interactions deal with deposits, withdrawals, checking one’s account and other routine matters that could be better handled through self-banking at less expense to banks.

Tackling barriers to digital adoption among the young and the old can be daunting, but the payoff is swift and significant. Bain’s study analyzes how some banks are spurring behavior change in their customers:

  • Devise interventions by front-line branch and service center representatives that blend education and encouragement: For example, not “why don’t you use your phone?” but “would you like to see how you could save time?”
  • Invite customers to try digital banking with the guidance of a trusted employee they know or have worked with. At one major North American bank, this approach achieved a 70 percent conversion rate for future interactions.
  • Use Agile techniques to tackle the root causes of routine branch visits and phone calls. Banks taking this approach have been able to reduce branch and call center volumes by 20 percent in 12 months.


Banks that design an easy, accessible and convenient self-service experience stand a better chance of creating loyal customers, said the report, for millennials and boomers alike.

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