How a Simple Gift Can Make a Difference in Customer Satisfaction

It is likely your bank gives away plenty of gifts. For example, you likely have branded pens in your branch for the taking or have a bowl of candy. While nice, that does very little to help customer satisfaction. However, if you take that same gift and present it a different way, it can make a difference. In this post, we explore that art of bank gift giving and at the risk of sounding too Machiavellian will discuss how you can make that gift more meaningful.


The Academic Research


What got us thinking about bank gift giving was a study we read back in 2002 conducted by the Journal of Applied Social Psychology where they took wait staff and patrons in a restaurant and divided them into four groups.


Group One was the control group. At the end of the meal, the wait staff presented the check, and the tip percentage was recorded.


The wait staff in Group Two presented the check with a mint. The mere act of leaving a mint increased tips an average of three percent.  


Bank Customer Satisfaction


Here is where it gets interesting. For Group Three, the waiter or waitress brought the check and left two mints. This time, the wait staff announced that they were leaving two mints. Instead of doubling the incremental tip percentage, tips went up 14%.


And, this part got us – The wait staff for Group Four left two mints without saying anything, walked away, stopped and then came back to leave more mints.

When they came back, they commented how nice the diners were and that they deserve more mints. Tips went up 21% compared to Group One.


The Takeaway


The lesson from the psychologists in the study is this – A gesture, no matter how small, is appreciated. However, when it is presented with personalized service, it is appreciated even more.


Application To Banking


Based on the above study, we tried it and it worked. We started to give away pastries, cell phone chargers, pens and candy. For one experiment we did, after every teller transaction, we thanked the customer for their service and we provided a high-end chocolate similar to the one below. 


Customer gifts


We measured satisfaction with the bank with and without a gift. No surprise, true to form, satisfaction was 10% to 20% higher after the gift.


Recently, for commercial customers, we have offered and brought pastries after asking for a meeting. Surprisingly, we found that this doubled the rate at which we were able to get meetings. 


As we have written about before, one of the most critical times in the customer journey is right after purchase. This is particularly true for a commercial customer and whether sending a Lucite “tombstone” that commemorates the loan transaction that we highlighted in our 10 Ways To Set Your Loans Apart (HERE) or a personalized high-end “thank you” gift such as an engraved clock, satisfaction was substantially increased.


We also point out that the gift does not have to be part of the transaction. We have found an unexpected gift, also has a profound effect. We wrote about it HERE as we experimented with gifts on the customer’s anniversary with the bank. 


Finally, it also helps to think beyond transaction lines. Providing a gift to a customer that learned how to use your mobile banking platform will not only increase satisfaction but will increase adoption rates as well.




The jaded readers will consider that the giving of a gift is a form of bribing, and excellent transactional service is a reward in itself. While true, we think that is a myopic view. We are not in the transaction business, but the financial services business. Our brand is our entire relationship, not just the great execution of a transaction. Everyone likes a gift and if your goal is to build a memorable service culture, expressing gratitude for your customers in the form of a gift is a great way to do it.


If you agree with us, to get more out of your gift, our research and experimentation found that if you personalize the experience and make it unexpected, it will leave even more of an impression. Gift giving doesn’t have to be expensive; it just has to be authentic. If you are looking to increase customer satisfaction and lifetime value, try a gift to reaffirm that they are with a bank that shows gratitude back.