E-commerce pioneers like Amazon and Zappos have trained customers to expect all of their providers, including their banks, to wow them at every point of contact. Channel usage, whether you are talking about branch, mobile or online banking, is one of the hottest and most debated topics in the banking community.
Is it possible to provide all the latest digital platforms yet still fall short in customer care? Yes. In fact, many banking experts argue that call center usage will increase as customers lean on contact centers as a digital help desk. Are there times when a customer needs a real person to listen to and resolve his problem? Absolutely—even if it means personally visiting a branch.
Findings from Gallup’s latest U.S. Retail Banking study underscore this point. Querying customers on their channel usage, one of the key themes that emerged was that the BRATMO trifecta—branches, ATMs and online banking—still defines the core of day-to-day banking.
Consider the credit-card customer who, concerned about recent massive security breaches at retail outlets, decided to get her card reissued with a new number. She tried ordering a new card online but couldn’t find the tools to complete the task. A live chat window opened, and the customer learned that getting a new card would take about a week. Anxious about being without her primary card for that long, however, she stopped by her local branch and talked to a live person, who sent her a card by express mail — it arrived in two days. The happy customer, in turn, raved about her positive experience on Facebook.
What did it cost that card issuer to provide the empathetic agent who had the authority to immediately spring for the express-mail cost? And what did the issuer gain in the loyalty not only of that customer but also the positive social media buzz she generated? Research continues to find that people trust peer recommendation far more than they trust advertising.
Listening to Customers
Anticipating and responding empathetically to customer needs can take many forms. Consider the following approaches:
- Instill a culture of customer service. At Zappos, customer service isn’t a silo; it’s the mission of every employee. The company backs that pledge by providing every employee with at least a month of customer-service training. Empower your contact center agents with the ability to provide inquiry resolution that’s quick, accurate and easy to access.
Tune in to social media. More banks are monitoring social media posts to respond directly to customers and to gain valuable insight into their own and competitors’ strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for innovation. The best social media outlet is the one the bank commits to supporting 24/7, says Joseph J. Buggy, senior vice president and chief strategist at Sutherland Global Services. “If the bank has a Facebook page, you’d better staff it. If you have a Twitter account, it better be active and quick. If you’re not as responsive as your competitor, the customer who asked the question will move on,” Buggy explains.
Conduct surveys and other market research. To ensure alignment, customer-centric banks engage in ongoing market research at all levels. And while surveys have their place, don’t stop there; qualitative research and user forums provide insight into how you can do a better job.
- Offer incentives for customers to suggest new products and services or to help beta-test them. Everybody loves free samples, and customers who feel part of your innovation team will be quick to tweet about their experiences. Initiatives like MyStarbucksIdea, where Starbucks takes suggestions and comments from customers online and through social media, shows that your organization can gain unvarnished feedback and access to your best customers’ social networks for little cost.
- Complaints? Bring ‘em on! A customer who takes the time to express her dissatisfaction possesses a wealth of market intelligence. Promote multiple channels that make it easy for disgruntled customers to talk to you versus publicly griping about the issue on Facebook. Whether it’s a live agent or a live chat online, explore all the options for swiftly escalating problem calls to the next level. Follow up with customers to ensure a satisfactory resolution.
How your bank listens to customers may be the single most important factor in your capacity to gain ambassadors and champions for life.
For more information on this topic, see Sutherland’s white paper “The New Age in Customer Service.”