For the second year in succession, the UK's Co-operative Bank has come top in our European Bank Customer Advocacy Rankings, just ahead of Poland's ING Bank Śląski, with Germany's Sparda-Banken in third place.

Customer advocacy is the perception among customers that a firm does what’s right for them, not just what’s best for its own bottom line. Customer advocacy matters because in every country we survey in our Consumer Technographics® research, we’ve found that customers who view their main bank as a customer advocate have more accounts at their main bank, are more likely to consider their bank for their next financial purchase, and are more likely to recommend it to others.

Given the fragile state of most European economies and the ongoing sovereign debt crisis, it's perhaps not surprising that many Europeans still don't think their bank has their best interests at heart. Just 29% of the nearly 24,000 European adults we surveyed believe their main bank does what’s best for them. Overall, the Polish and German banks have the best relationships with their customers, and the British banks the worst. The scores within each country vary substantially. Although British banks overall have some of the worst relationships, the UK contains three of the banks with the best relationships: The Co-operative Bank, Nationwide Building Society and First Direct. Other customer advocacy leaders include Germany’s Sparda-Banken and Volksbanken Raiffeisenbanken, Spain’s Bancaja and Rabobank in the Netherlands. Customers think mutually owned firms that don't have shareholders to worry about tend to do better at putting customers' interests first. Pure retail banks that don't have big investment banking operations also seem more likely to put customers' interests first.

So what can eBusiness and channel strategy executives do about it? Although you can't control or greatly influence public perceptions of your bank,  digital channels provide a great way for eBusiness executives to demonstrate customer advocacy by focusing on the four cornerstones of customer advocacy: keeping things simple, operating transparently, treating customers beneveolently, and building trust. For example, the Co-operative Bank uses its website to build trust by spelling out its service guarantees and promising to pay customers £15 if it breaks them, and helps educate customers about their finances and the bank's ethical policies through its 'good with money' website.

Forrester clients can read the full report with detailed results for 48 banks across eight European markets and more examples of good practices here. Let us know what you think.