5 Resolutions to Raise Customer Satisfaction

With the holidays behind us and 2012 well underway, I was wondering whether it’s too late for us to add a couple of resolutions to the list that has probably already been broken (Gym visits? Dieting? Smoking? …) In a cross-industry comparison of 2011 satisfaction scores below, I highlighted the research studies which pertain to banking and credit cards. While all 3 studies showed improvement in satisfaction last year, it is painfully obvious that a lot more can and should be done to address the needs and expectations of our customers. Therefore, I propose a list of five changes which, if adopted as part of the New Year, would likely raise customer satisfaction in financial services again this year and help narrow the gap with other service industries that typically outperform banking each year.

Resolutions for financial services:

Greet customers with sincerity and compassion:  Regardless of whether it’s in person or over the phone, customers can sense a disingenuous welcome or hello. We each have the ability to make someone else’s day a little better or to relieve some stress by smiling and saying ‘hello’. Acknowledging a customer upon arrival is the single most impactful behavior to in-person satisfaction in our Retail and Small Business Banking studies, affecting the customer’s subsequent perception of satisfaction in other areas such as wait time and account initiation. Likewise, courtesy for phone agents starts with the greeting and affects overall satisfaction of the call session.

Call customers back before they call you:  When working on a customer question, problem or other issue, we often wait to call a customer back until there is resolution. Unfortunately, in the meantime, customers often grow impatient at the lack of information while waiting and call the bank…sometimes several times. When the bank finally calls the customer with resolution, customers often feel the call was the result of their persistence and not what the bank planned all along. If a problem or question cannot be resolved at the initial point of contact (best practice) or within 24-hours, the customer needs a call informing them of the current status and anticipated timeline for resolution, along with proactive call at regular intervals until the problem is closed out. But this also leads to another resolution…

‘Own’ a customer’s problem or question:  Once the phone is hung up, the call is transferred or the customer leaves a branch, it is often assumed that someone else will take care of what needs to be done. Unfortunately that is seldom the case. J.D. Power’s research shows that on average there is a marked decline in satisfaction when a hand-off takes place. While there is often valid reasons for handing off a customer from one employee/department to another, it is very important that the initial point of contact takes ownership of the customer. This is to ensure the customer is kept informed and has ultimate closure, along with addressing any remaining concerns or question which might otherwise go unanswered.

Actively listen to what customers are…and aren’t saying:  Peter Drucker, one of the world’s most noted experts on management and leadership, once said, “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” When new customers go through account initiation, only one in three typically report their needs were completely assessed. What often transpires when opening accounts is that the call center agent or branch CSR is too busy completing a form or filling out a screen as opposed to hearing the customer describe their situation. A great step forward will be for employees to stop writing or typing and instead to employ ‘active’ listening skills, affirming for the customer that they are hearing and understanding those needs.

Notice and thank customers for their loyalty:  The last few years have been some of the toughest times since the Depression and yet many customers have stuck with their primary institutions. In February, J.D. Power will publish its Banking Customer Switching and Acquisition study to better understand what banks can do to both capture and retain customers. However, one simple step bankers can take to improve the chances of retention is to note how long customers have been with your institution and sincerely thank them for their loyalty. While most customers are not able to fully understand how profitable they are (or aren’t) to a bank, they do know how long they have stayed with their bank in spite of ongoing solicitations over those years from competitors. So for the fifth resolution in 2012, take a moment when talking to each of these customers and tell them how much you sincerely appreciate their loyalty!

One final thought…for 2012, if you want to get customers’ attention, send handwritten notes. Phone calls and emails yield high satisfaction, but few send handwritten notes anymore. This is one way to stand out when you want to thank a customer or follow-up with them!



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