The coronavirus crisis caused an upheaval in the municipal economy. In a challenging position to start with, municipalities suddenly had to adjust to a situation where income plummeted and expenditure grew radically. The uncertainty caused by the economic crisis was also reflected in the MuniFin customer experience survey, which was conducted in May–June and drew responses from 340 people who manage the finances of municipalities and state-subsidised housing companies.
“The initial shock created almost palpable uncertainty and caused people to crave information. When one commercial bank after another started to withdraw lending from the municipal sector, municipalities became concerned about the availability of funding, which resulted in a sudden spike in the demand for both long and short term funding”, says Aku Dunderfelt, head of customer finance at MuniFin.
The survey is conducted every six months to gauge customer experience and assess the position of lenders in the market. MuniFin’s customer satisfaction rating has improved significantly over the past couple of years and the most recent results confirm that this trend has continued. On a scale of 1 to 7, MuniFin scored an average customer satisfaction rate of 6.1, whereas six months earlier the score was 5.7.
Corona crisis put trust to the test
The survey results highlighted that customers place great importance on trust in the financing partner’s ability to handle the coronavirus crisis. MuniFin scored very high on this, reaching a rating of 6.3 on a scale of 1 to 7, when the average trust rate in banks was only 5.4. A total of 86% of respondents also said that reliability is MuniFin’s key strength.
“Our customer satisfaction has increased in leaps and bounds in recent years. These exceptional circumstances just go to show that the true test of customer value propositions happens in a time of crisis. We were able to quickly provide our customers both financing and information, offering them the tools to survive this situation. This shows as a clear spike in our customer engagement. Our customer satisfaction is built on successful funding and proactive customer service, even during a crisis”, says Dunderfelt.
Customers appreciate convenience and competitive prices – most are willing to recommend MuniFin
MuniFin’s positive customer experience is also reflected in how willing customers are to recommend the organisation. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) groups customers into ‘promoters’, ‘passives’ and ‘detractors’ based on how willing they are to recommend a company to a friend or a colleague. MuniFin’s NPS rating has been increasing steadily over the past few years, but in the latest survey, it shot up to 71. In comparison, the average NPS in the banking industry is 22. According to the survey, seven out of ten customers are willing to recommend MuniFin in both the municipal and housing sectors.
“Ensuring a first-class customer experience and excellent customer service has been very difficult in the financial sector this year. It is extraordinary how well MuniFin has been able to continue to consolidate its position, especially in terms of reliability. The gap between MuniFin and last year’s highest ranking banking sector company is considerable, as this company only reached a NPS rating of 54”, explains Heidi Laitinen, country manager at EPSI Rating Group, the company that conducted the survey.
In addition to customers’ willingness to recommend a company, the survey also looked at what customers most value in a financing partner. The key qualities reported were competitive pricing, services that are easy to use, suitable financing solutions and responsibility, all factors that customers considered as MuniFin’s strong points.
Increasing need for a comprehensive financial review
The survey results show that online services are an integral part of a smooth customer experience. According to the results, it is easy to do business with MuniFin, and MuniFin’s online services and tools are heading in the right direction: 47% of respondents see MuniFin’s digital services as a strong point and 49% consider them to be in line with the industry standard. Compared to the previous survey, there was a 15% increase in the number of respondents who saw MuniFin’s digital services as a strong point.
These days, customers also expect more of digital tools. They value the ease of online services and the broader outlook that new financial modelling tools can offer the municipal economy. Customers also expect their financing partners to take a more consulting approach in financial planning.
MuniFin’s customer experience survey was conducted as an email survey between 29 May and 26 June 2020, with 340 participants who manage the finances of municipalities and state-subsidised housing companies. The survey is conducted every six months in collaboration with EPSI Rating Group.
Written by Heidi Penttinen
Photo by George Atanassov