How Bank of America Is Turning Customer Satisfaction Around

Customer Service Basics

Back in 2013, we sat through training at Bank of America to better learn how they train their line staff. At the time, Bank of America ranked almost dead last of all the major banks according to the JD Power U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study and scored a dismal 753 out of 1,000 points. The focus of the particular training that we attended was how to deal with upset customers and how best to resolve a problem. That training ended up working, as for 2017, Bank of America now ranks ahead of all national banks with the exception of Chase (below). In this article, we highlight the core of this customer satisfaction turnaround.


Problem Resolution


While every community banker knows this, it is sometimes easy to forget. When working with an upset customer, bankers know that problem resolution is a major reason why a customer leaves a bank and is the single largest impact point on customer satisfaction. No other factor, not rate, not products, not location or friendliness of bank staff, can improve customer satisfaction faster than proper problem resolution. If the resolution is right, satisfaction for the customer will be greater after the problem is resolved than prior to the problem. In short, if there is one thing your bank needs to get right to build customer loyalty and profitability, it is customer satisfaction, and to get satisfaction right, problem resolution is central.


Customer Satisfaction Survey


Bank of America’s Approach


Bank of America, in their “End-to-End” Problem Handling Course, teaches “GUEST,” and it is a pretty good acronym to help staff remember what to do – Greet, Understand, Execute, Satisfy and Thank/Track.


Greet – Use the customer’s name within the first couple sentences to reassure a personal relationship.  Instead of an annoyance, bank staff should look at the problem as an opportunity to win the customer’s respect. Here, using positive and active language that aligns the banker with the customer is one of the most important things a banker can do. The attitude should be “This is unacceptable – let’s solve this problem now, together.”


Understand – Start by learning all the facts from the customer’s point of view and what has already been done. Ask active questions to understand the issue and then respond with an apology. Even if the bank is right, something, communication, for example, was most likely handled wrong. The customer is looking for an apology, and the sooner one is offered, the faster the customer will start to build trust. Bankers should show empathy, take ownership and restate the desired outcome. This is the part that many community bankers miss – state very clearly what needs to occur for the customer to feel happy again – and get the customer’s concurrence.


Execute - Once the problem is understood, bank staff must then figure out what resources are going to be needed to solve the problem and how long resolution is going to take. The faster the problem can be solved, the better. However, the goal initially is to develop a plan and communicate it to the customer. If you can solve the problem quickly – perfect if not, the trick for higher customer satisfaction is to get the customer on their way and tell them exactly when you will get back to them (and find out the best way to contact them). The banker also may want to consider an interim time, just to give an update, in order to keep the customer engaged in the problem-solving process. Another important point is to ensure the customer has all the contact information for the bank employee so if they have any other additional questions; they have an easy way to contact the banker that has taken ownership of the process.


Of course, any bank that prides themselves on service should have a system in place for bank employees to be empowered to quickly offer a refund, an upgrade, a transaction adjustment or a correction. The last thing a bank wants to do is to hand off the customer to another bank employee. Unfortunately, sometimes a handoff has to occur, but know that for every handoff, customer satisfaction drops and by the third handoff, statistically, a customer is now 50% more likely to defect from the bank. 


If the bank management has done its job ahead of time, hopefully, the entire organization is dedicated to improving customer service. When others are needed in the organization to solve the problem, they should exhibit the same attitude and sense of urgency as the line staff. This is a hallmark of a great customer-centric organization.


Satisfy – Once the problem is solved, this needs to be communicated to the customer. Here, we have found that the point that makes a difference is the ability for the banker to provide some form of tangible proof. Providing a tracking number, an email confirmation, letter or picture of the corrected problem sends satisfaction up double digits. In other words, it is not enough to solve the problem, but the customer has to feel that they will not have to deal with this problem again and written proof has been found to be a huge factor in bringing relief from the anxiety the initial problem has caused.


The other aspect of this stage is to educate. Here, if the customer needs an education on how best to avoid fees, or prevent the problem from occurring in the future, this is the time to educate them on what their role could be. In addition, if applicable, discuss any steps the bank is taking to prevent the problem from reoccurring in the future


Thank/Track – Once the issue is satisfactorily resolved, the banker will personally contact the customer again and confirm that the issue has been resolved to their satisfaction, or preferably above their expectations.  Then the customer is thanked again, letting them know that you value their business and look forward to seeing them again in the future.


Going Beyond Bank of America 


At this stage, an extra gift or “thank you” should be considered. While a gift may not be necessary, it is another way to move your customer satisfaction scores to a higher level. Customers want to feel valuable and offering a fee waiver, an “I am sorry gift” or similar acknowledges the customer’s valuable time spent and is a way to offer simple thanks for making your bank better. One method some banks use is to tell the customer that next time they plan on visiting, call ahead and an account rep will personally take care of their transaction. Sometimes the manager follows up to make this offer. This VIP treatment serves to ensure the next transaction goes error free and that your bank cares about the customer.


Finally, make sure the problem and resolution are noted in a relationship management system so that it can be tracked and that employees involved in future interactions can be sensitive to past issues.


How Is It Working?


We recently tested Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank and Bank of America with a simple scenario: We needed $40 at lunch time had our phone, but not our wallet. We wanted someone to show us how to get our debit card on the mobile application and then use it at the ATM or teller to withdraw cash. We ranked each bank on friendliness, helpfulness, education, and speed. Each bank did surprisingly well, and while Chase was technically the fastest, Bank of America scored the most points overall and got extra points their focus on mobile education.


If you want to build a superior performing bank, a superior customer resolution process is central. Bank of America put the whole bank through the training and then made a simple reminder handout that all staff kept handy. The result - improved employee moral (as they were now better equipped), fewer problems over time and higher customer satisfaction.



If you are looking to continue to invest in customer satisfaction and quality service, we believe there is no better training in banking than formalized customer resolution. 



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