What Does That One Perfect Experience Look Like in Banking?

Improving Bank Customer Experience

If you want to build a service culture that is truly unique, you have to create a banking experience that gets customers to rave about you to their family, friends and business associates. A “good” experience will earn you a four-star rating, but it won’t create a fan. A “Wow” experience, on the other hand, has to be good enough to fuel emotion and passion to the point where you just have to tell someone else about it. In this article, we look at how banks can create that experience.


Brainstorming That Five Star Experience


When Airbnb first started, they asked themselves, “What does our spectrum of experiences look like when the guest first checks into their accommodations?”


The Team started with a 1-star experience – The guest gets little information before, goes up, knocks on the door, and no one is there. A 3-star experience is one where it takes a while to open the door, and nothing is ready for you. You end up having a fine stay as the host barely met your minimum standards. You may or may not use the service again. Then, the Airbnb team goes on. 


A 5-star experience is when the host quickly gets you into a nice, clean property that is exactly like the pictures. Everything goes smooth, and the customer is happy. Except, the customer may or may not talk about the experience. 


The Airbnb Team then they designed a 10-star experience. A 10-star experience would be a private jet picks you up and brings you to the destination where you meet with cheering fans. You are whisked, via a limo, to your accommodations, where you are already checked in, your clothes are put away, your favorite food is available in the refrigerator, and a chef comes in to cook the local cuisine for when you want to eat in. Of course, you want to get out on the town the first night, and luckily you already have reservations at a popular restaurant for you and your friends. During dinner, both the chef and the owner come out to greet you and take pictures with you.  


Sounds fantastic, right?


The problem is that is never going to happen.


Where a Banker Would Stop


Most bankers would never go so far as to design a 10-star experience because they know it would never happen. Why waste the time? Except, this exercise did two things for Airbnb that made a huge difference. 


bank customer experience


First, it highlighted the common elements that compose the 10-star experience. The ease and seamlessness of movement is an obvious one. Another is the presence of friends or family – someone that you can share the experience with. The exercise highlighted the fact that it is the experience away from the lodging that also helps cement the emotion of how you feel about your accommodations. Creating a total experience, one that you can share with social media, also helps increase satisfaction.


The 10-star exercise helped Airbnb understand the important elements of the experience and then allowed the Team to reverse engineer the stay from departure to arrival.  The Team then highlighted those elements or derivations of those elements that it could cost-effectively include on the Airbnb platform. 


For example, Airbnb now looks for more hosts that can provide an additional experience such as a home-cooked dinner, a boat ride, surf lessons, a hike or at least a set of bicycles. Also, it now encourages its hosts to leave a welcome gift of some sort – home cooked cookies, a bottle of wine, etc. Leave a welcome gift, they found, even if the accommodations cost more, and customers are more likely to recommend the property.


The other advantage of brainstorming a 10-star experience is that it made the staff realize how easy it was to deliver a 5-star experience. Compared to getting a private jet, allowing an automated check-in or keeping track of your preferences is easy. You have to design the extreme experience to be able to come back to find that sweet spot of what your bank can do.


It Starts With One Perfect Experience


The next brilliant thing that Airbnb did was to try to pull off one “perfect experience.” It took a client that had a bad experience and said that they want a “do over.” Airbnb picked up the tab and handcrafted a stay that included many of the realistic elements of the 10-star experience. In doing so, the Team learned what that perfect experience looks like under real conditions.  


They tried this several times until that honed their sweet spot of what an amazing experience looks like.


Once they could pull off a perfect experience, they then went to work on scaling the elements of that effort so they could deliver a 5-star stay, through process and technology in a cost-effective manner. Communication mattered, so Airbnb increased the number of alerts and notifications it sent to both guests and host. Guest profiles were increased so hosts could learn more about their guest and a whole educational series was produced teaching hosts how to provide a better guest experience (above).


Putting This Into Action


This process of working backward and employing trial and error to enhance the customer experience has served Airbnb well. Banks can do the same thing.


In banking, there are a several “touchpoints” that seem to matter (below). When a customer has a problem; when you are onboarding a customer to a new product; when the account is not thinking about the bank, and the bank can add unexpected value; when the customer faces a major life event such as a birth, home move, business sale or retirement; and, whenever a customer is seeking information about the bank or product, are all excellent times for a bank to try to create the perfect experience.


Five of the Most Important Events Where Banks Need To Get The Customer Experience Right


One bank took each of the above touchpoints and assigned each of them to a senior manager who then headed up a four-person team to improve the customer experience for each event. Five teams of three people went to work on restructuring the experience for each of the five touchpoints. Over a period of two years, the bank almost doubled its satisfaction rate which resulted in improved financial metrics. 


Further, the bank came to realize that as more and more customers move to digital channels, their customer care had to move away from traditional analog delivery. Through focus groups, the management team learned that in the digital world, banks are not compared to other banks, but to Amazon. The bank has to keep up. As a result, the bank now has a strategic customer experience plan that is heavily weighted for digital delivery to be put in place over the next five years.  


Not only is bank customer experience directly tied to financial performance, but it is also now becoming a strategic focus for many banks. Banks can start with these core touchpoints and expand from there. Using Airbnb’s methodology helps bank design an experience that will create a journey that customers will want to post, Tweet and brag about. As an added bonus, the Airbnb 10-star exercise serves to energize bank employees as it is fun to dream what is possible. 


As you start to set your strategic planning agenda for next year, consider a customer experience focus, because as they say - a satisfied customer is the best bank strategy of all.