Go take a look at all the adoring letters and emails your bank has received over the past year. If you don’t have too many, we can tell you why. If you do have them, look at what prompted your customer to write them. We would bet that not one is from a customer thanking you for a low rate on the loan or an above market rate on a deposit. In our experience, customer thank you letters are never about rates, term, product or branches. They are not about the inputs to banking, but about the outputs.
Mystery Shopping Lesson
This point was driven home when we were mystery shopping a Wells Fargo branch last week. The branch was something right out of the 50’s - mosaics on the walls, wood paneling and an art deco style clock. It was the exact opposite of what a modern branch should be. The line was 5 deep at lunch time and as we stood there. We felt pure superiority. At CenterState, we try never to have the lines 5 deep. At CenterState, our branches are much better looking.
But, our smugness only lasted for 15 seconds.
The assistant manager and manager both opened new customer lines. We ended up waiting in line for less than 2 minutes before we got to one of their line tellers. Once at the window, we ran through our standard questions – questions about their mortgage product, FDIC coverage, account fees and rates. They nailed it. We handed a deposit to them without an account number. They nailed the rest of our 10 other tests and scored a “4” or “5” out of “5” in every category.
We love to hate the big banks, but Wells is making it hard. Our retail customer experience at that suburban branch was among the best we experienced. The service was so good, we never thought twice about the branch décor.
Flawless Service = Like On the Way to Love
And this is our point - when your service is flawless, little else matters. When your service is flawless, there is a higher probability that you will be getting bank love letters.
No one ever wrote us to tell us about how amazing our rates are. Unless its charity or community involvement, almost all of our love letters are about a banker that made a difference.
The Difference Between Adequate and Impressive
But, flawless service is just a starting point.
Cashing a check or providing a loan in a timely manner is not a memorable experience. This is expected. We must find ways to really impress our customers.
A warm and sincere greeting, calling the customer by name (many banks strive for 3 times per interaction), efficient/accurate service and a fond farewell are table stakes at any quality bank. We must anticipate our customer’s needs and provide a high level of service before they even know what they need.
The goal of every bank management team should be to train their staff to be looking for the times in banking that can really make a difference. We need to get creative in making banking memorable.
We need to help our customers achieve their dreams, or make them rock stars in the eyes of someone. We need to make them feel loved and part of an organization that is larger than just themselves or their business. The customer needs to know that they have our bank in their corner.
Escorting You Across The Bank
Here is an example. When we mystery shop, you can always tell the bankers that “get it” versus those that read some customer service book or are trying to mimic another bank.
The classic move is when the customer must be taken to another department or area in the branch. An average banker will point or direct to the location. A banker that is trying to deliver superior service will escort the person to the location with the purpose of making sure that customer doesn’t get lost. We feel sorry for this banker because they are so close to perfection, yet so far.
How to Walk a Customer Across the Branch
A banker that truly understands fanatical customer service will walk the person to their destination not for the purpose of showing the way, which is a byproduct, but for the opportunity to learn more about the customer. A walk provides the perfect time to ask about the kids, how business is going, the next vacation or whatever might provide clues to future banking needs.
After making sure the customer is taken care of at the destination, that banker most likely entered in the new information directly into their CRM system on their phone or at least wrote it down. Below is a common “preference card” or customer information card (CIC) than many banks use.
Where Do You Rank?
Peapack-Gladstone Bank taught us to ask this question of ourselves – If the customer had a problem, any problem, where would the bank rank? Sure, a family member might be the first call, but somewhere along the way that customer is going to call an outside professional - Maybe their lawyer, their accountant or their wealth advisor. We realized that our bank was farther down the list than we wanted to be. Peapack gave us an excellent framework for thinking of the value we bring to our clients, and we have resigned ourselves to try to find ways to move up that list.
Banks spend way too much time worrying about competing on price, their branch design and their products instead of focusing on the customer.
If your bank is looking for ways to move up the list and get more love letters in the process, figuring out ways to deliver flawless service with a staff that genuinely cares about the success of the customer is probably the surest way to accomplish that goal. In fact, the approach has never failed.
Submitted by Chris Nichols on June 30, 2016