By Nancy Friedman
As banks increase dependence on technology, stepping up customer service becomes even more important.
Do your customers find your bank friendly and helpful? Or cold and impersonal?
Due to online banking, ATMs, employee layoffs and branch closings, human interaction is sometimes the missing link at a local bank.
So, while it may make economic sense to depend on high-tech, it’s become even more important that banks strive to make the local branch experience more warm and personal.
The best way to make that happen is to pay increased attention to customer service.
Banks spend millions of marketing dollars trying to convince us to open accounts, use their credit cards, take out a mortgage, take out a loan, or open a retirement account. But if customer contact is not handled just right in the bank, at a cell center or on the web by customer service representative, all that money is wasted.
Market research firm Dimensional Research published a study that found 87 percent of customers share good experiences with others, and 88 percent are influenced by online customer service reviews when making buying decision. You have one chance to make a first impression and gain a loyal customer. Poor customer service can stop a purchase, create negative social media reaction, and ruin a brand.
What can bank managers and employees do to step up their customer service?
- Designate one of your employees as a greeter—someone who makes an immediate, positive connection when a customer enters a bank.
- When the customer enters your bank, that greeter should smile. Don’t let your employees greet customers without a smile. A smile leaves a positive, friendly first impression.
- When addressing customers, ask, what can I do for you today as opposed to can I help you. Never say no problem. Instead, say I’m glad to help you. Or you’re welcome—the gold standard response to a customer’s thank you.
- If the customer comes to your bank often, address him or her by name. Make a personal connection. If the customer has questions, be pleasant and helpful.
- Prepare your employees with a mental suit of armor. Make sure they’re aware that not all customers will be so nice and some will be difficult. Your employees will be on the front lines of occasional customer abuse. Warn them in advance and make sure that when those incidents happen that your employees will still treat the customer with politeness and respect. We all know the customer isn’t always right. But they remain the customer.
- Your employees need to care. While knowledge of banking offerings is important, it’s just as vital that your employees show they care and want to help the customer with any questions or issues. Greet each customer as if they were bringing a million dollars of business to your bank.
- Bank managers should meet with their staff at the end of each day. Discuss what went wrong and what went right? Make sure any customer service concerns are addressed immediately and solutions are made so customers are always satisfied.
- Finally, banks should train their employees in customer service techniques. If you have some customer service training in place, review it with your employees. If you don’t have a customer service plan, hire an experienced expert to spend a day training your staff. And if you have no time to train, remind your employees that saying “thank you for your business” goes a long way, costs nothing, and leaves a positive lasting impression.
Remember that if you don’t provide excellent customer service and leave a pleasant banking experience, you’ll lose an opportunity to gain and retain valued customers forever.