Satisfying Banking Customers’ Expectations for Modern Customer Service
While it is true that customers have ever-growing expectations about the way they like to bank, we should note that the basics of what’s important to customers have not changed in decades. Customers will never ask for a service to be more expensive, more complicated, slower, or less secure. It is critical that these basic truths about customers’ needs remain top priority in your beliefs, investments, resourcing, and offerings.
Having said that, customers’ expectations in many cases have changed dramatically. Customers now expect instant results, incredibly simple and logical experiences, thorough resolutions, and top notch security. Customers’ expectations aren’t just shaped by their banking experiences but by all experiences. The ease at which customers can navigate thousands of movies on Netflix influences the way they expect their banking apps to work. If it takes someone longer to find a recent grocery store charge on their banking app than a Nicholas Cage movie on Netflix, you have a fundamental problem.
A more dramatic example of customers’ growing expectations is in customer service. Customers expect to access customer service in multiple ways and demand that they get answered immediately, while also getting thorough and thoughtful answers. Some of these expectations can be at odds with each other if you have an issue that is complex. So, how do you solve that? How do you manage increasingly demanding customer expectations while maintaining cost efficiencies? In my experience, it takes this 5-step approach.
1) Create operating tenets that define your beliefs about customer service
2) Set SMART goals against those beliefs
3) Determine your service offerings and be serious about them
4) Hire modern third- party contact center partners
5) Invest heavily in technology that helps you scale
Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to build the best customer service on the planet. The idea stems from the reality that customers’ expectations are driven by their experiences across all aspects of life. Thus, earning the “best customer service” badge can’t be a comparison among your peers and competitors but across ALL services and experiences worldwide. The award for “best in class” is futile. To achieve this at Oxygen, we created a set of core beliefs that informed what “best” could look like.
- First belief is that the “perfect customer experience begins with no help needed”
- Second belief is that “every support contact or complaint from customers is a defect in their experience”
The basic idea is that before working to create great customer service, it is critical to challenge the need for customer service to exist in the first place. We wrote each belief like an operating tenet that will deliver “the best customer service on the planet.”
Once you create these operating tenets, you need SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) to track the progress against each tenet. For example, if a perfect customer experience begins with no help needed, then eliminating the root cause for customers needing help is critical to the goal. For this, we created goals against customer contact and complaint rates and assigned reduction of them to key leaders in the company.
These leaders owned levers to achieve this goal. Levers include dedicated technology hours to eliminate defects, accountability forums to discuss defects, and tools to identify defects in large patterns of calls, chat, emails, and social media forums. What gets measured gets improved – it is critical you set aside time to review these goals at a weekly frequency and provide the support leaders need to achieve them.
While it is quixotic to imagine that all banking experiences can be built without requiring help, the reality is that a customer service function is vital when things go wrong. It is critical to building and maintaining customer trust. At this stage, it is essential to determine servicing channel offerings within your bank. The standard offerings are call, chat and email options, but many banks now offer servicing through social media, app store and SMS/whatsapp as well.
Once you’ve determined your offerings, it is time to be serious about those offerings. It is better to offer limited options and resource them well than offering every option with limited resources. Being serious about them means fully investing in answering customers with great speed, completeness and empathy. If you just offer a phone option to your customers, make sure that you answer calls 24/7, answer them within seconds, and address issues thoroughly on the first call. That would be better servicing than if you offer every channel but limit the resourcing to support it.
Once your channel offerings are determined, it is time to choose a third-party contact center partner to execute your customer service. If you are new to this, it is better to hire an experienced financial services customer service provider. A strong third-party provider will bring quality, secure and inexpensive customer service solutions. These providers typically bring complementary advisory services across all of your customer service needs. As you mature, you may want to move servicing in-house to have more control over the servicing experience for your customers.
The criteria for selecting the right provider should be: 1) length of relevant experience in banking (ask for references), 2) quality of staff (ask for comparative customer satisfaction scores in their existing programs), 3) relevant security certifications (such as PCI and ISO), 4) expertise in your channel offerings (including call, chat, email, and social media), and 5) price. Selecting the perfect partner is a bit of an art and isn’t just limited to the five criteria mentioned above. There are many providers in the financial services industry, and any of the top ones will serve you well.
Finally, and certainly not optionally, you now need to determine technology solutions to help scale customer service. We have another tenet at Oxygen – “We believe the only way to scale long-term is through technology. While we ramp up in a scrappy way, we will prioritize investing in technology to scale long term.” To scale you need to invest in communications technology , service-rep tools (look up top-rated customer relationship management tools), customer self-service solutions (such as dynamic search, chatbots and FAQ), and capacity planning and defect classification tools (call recordings, chat tagging and ML-based classifications). These are the basics of a modern customer service center.
Ultimately, there are hundreds of recipes for success in customer service, but nearly all will require taking these steps to succeed. If I were to emphasize anything, I would emphasize the belief system and operating tenets – investing in them with proper funding, resourcing, measurements, and accountability. Without them, you don’t have a true north. Create a culture that constantly learns from past wins and mistakes, and you may be the creator of the next best customer service on the planet.
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