You vs. your competition, head-to-head, how’d you do?

A few weeks ago I had a mishap with an electronic billpay that brought together – and then set apart -three financial institutions.  Admittedly, I made a mistake in creating the electronic payment request.  My local bank generated a physical check rather than transferring the funds via ACH (Automated Clearing House), and sent it on to institution #2 to process for financial institution #3 located in the United Kingdom.  This error took hours of my time over a number of weeks to resolve.  When it was finally over, I wanted to blast one financial institution on every social media platform I could find, wrote a thank-you letter to another and felt as indifferent about the third institution as they felt about me. 

My local bank, First National Bank of Omaha took an electronic request for the transfer of funds and executed it via paper and then sent it via pony express (kidding, it was US mail), losing the tracking capabilities possible with an ACH.  But the moment I called their customer service department, I had their attention and their commitment of assistance.  My agent, Tania, conferenced me into First National Bank’s billpay department, inquired about next steps and stayed on the phone with me for over two hours as we made our way through the phone-tree-from-hell and more transfers than I could count at GIANT BANK (not their real name).  My local financial institution received a thank-you letter, along with my business for as long as I remain a resident in their coverage area. 

USELESS IN THE UK (also not a real name) played Switzerland so persuasively that an Oscar is surely in their future. 

But it is GIANT BANK to which I dedicate this blog.  After two hours on the phone with your “service” agents I had spoken with a small business agent, a personal banking agent, an international funds agent, a treasury agent and then back again.  Not one of these agents thought to transfer me to, or even mention that fact that GIANT BANK has a lost funds department.  And so my journey continued.  I can only assume that these “service agents” were hired to infuriate customers to the point where one would think twice before ever calling again.  So instead of flaming you on Twitter, I’ve decided to take a more constructive approach and offer a few helpful tips to anyone who might be reading this post wondering “Are we GIANT BANK?”

1.       Stop adding insult to injury – Your “service” model clearly tells your customers that you don’t give a damn.  So drop the pretense along with your satisfaction survey (Yes, we are a business intelligence firm that uses survey as one of our data collection tools and we are telling you NOT TO SURVEY).   If you cared about how you made your customers feel, if you had listened to the feedback from the first few thousand surveys you collected, you would have fired most of your call center agents and started from scratch.   Don’t continue to insult your customers by insisting on wasting even more of their time collecting feedback you obviously don’t intend to use. 

2.       Change behavior from the bottom up – I’m not suggesting that you change the way people think, that’s hard.  Changing behavior is significantly easier, Pavlov and his furry friend proved that.  How?  Make the consequences of bad service worse than the consequences of missing a shift, worse than the consequences of tardiness, worse than the consequences of being caught on break without clocking out, worse than the consequences of having an AHT above goal.  Thanks to the surveys you’ve been collecting, you have plenty of data to point to bad service experiences.  You likely also have feedback from your internal quality monitoring team.  Change the “sticks” your organization uses to manage performance and you’ll change the behavior.  You might even find that the heart and mind follow. 

3.       Vow to do better, and actually mean it - I’ve worked in call centers for many years.  I understand that it becomes exponentially harder to manage people when you grow from hundreds of employees to thousands of employees to hundreds of thousands of employees, but that’s not an excuse for the horrific service experiences that have earned you the infamous ‘Customer Service Hall of Shame’ nominations.  In order to effectively manage a service organization of this magnitude, you need visibility of the customer’s experience from dial to disconnect  and enough supervisors / managers to drive change.

4.       Then re-initiate your customer experience survey – Only after making positive changes.  You have to earn the right to request your customers’ time and opinions.

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