We all want to deliver great customer service in banking. However, the difference between the banks that talk about great service and those banks that deliver fanatical or “Wow” service often comes down to two important facets of bank management – definition and expectations. If you can quickly point to a document or plaque that defines those two dimensions of customer service for your bank then this article isn’t for you. However, if you are in the majority of banks that have not yet defined what great service looks like, then implementing this one simple change can radically change your culture.
What Great Customer Service Looks Like
Defining great customer service doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, most banks find that the simpler you make it, the more the bankers will go out of their way to deliver on the promise. Great service can be distilled down to the following:
Now, if your reaction to the above is “I already do all that,” then kudos to you – but, there could still be an issue.
If you are spending your time reading this, you are likely already a go-getter when it comes to customer service. There is no doubt that you already know what great service looks like but what about your co-workers? Or, what about your new employee where the above rules may not be so obvious. Further, even if every one of your employees knows this, execution is a different story.
We mystery shop 40+ banks per year, and can tell you that only about one out of 50 banks actually execute on the above.
Breaking Down the Rules – What the Customer Is Missing
In this article, we tackle the first and hardest rule – figuring out what the customer wants.
Your customer or potential customer is likely missing something. Few customers walk into a bank or get on your app fully self-actualized and just curious about life. Most likely they want to do something or have a solution they are looking for. As we say, if you don’t know what the customer really wants, then chances are you are not going to be able to deliver on your brand promise except maybe by luck.
For retail customers walking into a branch for a transaction, what they want is often clear. However, not always. Further, for most commercial customers, their real goals are often hidden.
This is why good solutions start with good questions.
Customers often don’t know what they want, don’t tell you what they want or fail to express their needs clearly. To make the situation more challenging, often banking customers think they know what they want but actually, want something else.
Consider the fact that, in the history of banking, no one has ever wanted a loan or a savings account as an end goal. No one takes a loan out, high-fives themselves and then proudly pays it right back. A banking product is always a means to an end. Bankers need to continually strive to find that end.
Customers want a loan to buy a house, expand their business, make payroll or a zillion other reasons. The same goes for deposits. Deposits help make a customer feel safe, put kids through college, retire or achieve a zillion other outcomes. Money, in a bank or in the form of credit, is ALWAYS a means to an end.
Bankers that find out what that end goal is will have a huge advantage against other financial institutions. They will be able to better fulfill the needs of the customer and will have a deeper emotional connection with that customer.
A banker looking to deliver fantastic service needs to have curiosity above else. They need to truly care and want to learn what the customer wants. That first rule that seemed so simple and so easy to perform is actually the rule that separates average banks from great banks.
Most bankers just ASSUME they know what the customer wants. The customer wants a loan, the banker gives them a loan and everyone is happy. Except that is a transaction. We want relationships.
The Problems With Relationships
Relationships, fortunately, take time. You have to ask a lot of questions and spend time getting to know your customer. You need to understand what they really want and continue to seek to validate your assumptions by asking them confirming questions and observing their actions.
Banks need to record the information in a customer relationship management (CRM) system so they don’t forget and so everyone in the organization can know the information. Information about the customer needs to survive from banker to banker so that each interaction makes the institution, not just the banker smarter about the client. You have to organize the information, follow up and analyze what they told you in order to turn the information into an action plan to deliver exceptional service.
You need to know who they are, where they came from, where are they going, what they fear, what they dream, who their family is, what they think about your bank and how they plan to use your bank’s products.
If you get the sense that this all will take a lot of time and effort – you are right. This also explains why so many banks say they are all about the relationship but few take the time or the effort to figure out, analyze and document what the customer is missing. If you want to know if your bank is transactional or relationship-driven, find out how many customers your bankers manage or how many prospects they have. When we hear that a banker manages "150 customers" or "hundreds of prospects" we know they cannot possibly be doing the legwork to understand each customer. Most banks, if they admit it or not, are really transactional.
The average banker in this country begins interactions with the intention of trying to solve the customer’s problem as fast as possible. While there is nothing wrong with speed that is likely not what the customer wants. If they want speed, then they probably want a transactional bank.
If you are trying to be a relationship bank, you can understand the misalignment.
The flipside is also true. If the customer wants a relationship and your bank doesn’t have the products, time, resources, training or gumption to spend time active listening, analyzing, coming up with a plan, and documenting, then maybe you are not set up to be a relationship bank?
There is no shame in that, the most successful banks in our industry are transactional.
Also, don’t get us wrong, we love speed and efficiency, just not until we understand what the customer is missing.
Putting This Into Action and What is Next
Delivering fanatical service doesn’t happen by accident. We will also point out that it is easy to deliver fanatical service when you are small and your CEO can walk across the platform to help train, teach and demonstrate great service.
However, as you grow, fanatical service becomes harder. New employees are harder to train and the organization often gets lost within itself. Training and execution become harder and delivering on your service promise are more difficult. The trick is to build the culture and infrastructure now to allow your institution to deliver service that “Wows” for the next 50, or more years.
Stay tuned on our journey as we try to figure out what "relationship banking" and "superior banking service" really mean. In the near future, we will cover the other two rules plus dive into the "7 Steps to “Wow” Bank Service" which will provide a simple roadmap to fanatical service.
Submitted by Chris Nichols on June 28, 2018