How to Infuriate Your Customers

By John Tschohl

If you think exemplary customer service is a secondary concern in today’s banking environment, you’re making a grave mistake. It’s a key element of the customer experience, and recent studies by Celent and J.D. Power provide mounting evidence that it’s a critical differentiator for bank consumers. Great service helps retain the customers you already have, attracts more customers, and builds a reputation that encourages customers to do business with you in the future.

Assessing the quality of your bank’s customer service not so simple—measuring speed of service tells only a small part of the story, and structuring a reliable survey is notoriously complex. One place to start is by putting yourself in your customers’ shoes.

Is your bank guilty of the following customer service faux pas?

  1. Telephone torture – In every industry, too many firms worship at the altar of IVR technology (also known as interactive voice response). Push 2 for English, 4 for Spanish, push 6 for a different menu and push 8 to make it all stop. For years I have been saying this is the most expensive piece of technology you will ever buy—because you may never stop paying the consequences. I preach answering the telephone within 3 rings—sooner if possible—with a live person.
  2. Bad company softwareHow many times have you placed a call and been asked to repeat your name and account number to every single person they have transferred you to? Shouldn’t you feed it into the system at the time and the next person that gets on the line says your name and asks what you can be helped with. Great comapnies do this, it’s a no-brainer for great service.
  3. Passing the buck – Studies show that one of the things that frustrates customers most is being passed around. If you’ve ever had this done to you, you know how frustrating it is. Often, it’s about finding the right answer to your customer’s question. The best solution is to be honest and find the answer so that your customer doesn’t have to. “I don’t know, but I’ll find out for you” is one of the most powerful phrases in customer service.
  4. Playing the blame game – Most companies will at some point have to deal with complaints, negative feedback and more. Dealing with, or not dealing with, these issues can make or break a company’s reputation. The wrong way is to do nothing. That’s an effective way to say “We really don’t care about our customers.” Placing blame only causes your customers to lose faith in your brand. It damages your reputation and risks a decrease in sales. Be proactive, inform customers and take care of them on the spot.
  5. Weak team players – Too often employees have an incomplete understanding of their products and services. Most customers can tell in a few seconds if the employee really knows what he or she is talking about. A long-term research project commissioned by Middlesex University for Work Based Learning found that from a 4,300-worker sample, 74% felt that they weren’t achieving their full potential at work due to lack of development opportunities. Continuous training empowers employees, gives them confidence and keeps them up to date on new developments. This confidence pushes them to perform better and think of new ideas to excel.
  6. No speed zone – Today customers want everything now. Meeting that expectation is a particular challenge for the banking industry, where rules and policies have traditionally slowed everything down. Amazon and Apple both understand speed. Most customers now have access to flawless 24/7 service with every transaction—no lines, no obstacles, no frustrations. Keep in mind that’s what you’re competing with.
  7. No service recovery – This faux pas is never excusable. In all organizations mistakes happen. Things go wrong. But the last thing you want to tell your customer is you can’t take care of their problem—and simply apologize. An apology is not service recovery. In a highly regulated industry, employees need to know exactly how and when they can make empowered decisions to save the customer. Every company has products or services that cost next to nothing and are of great value to compensate and lure customers back to you.

What’s the secret?

It’s simple: be relentlessly focused on customer service. Great leaders know that awesome service is what the customer says it is. So stay in touch with your customers and be willing to spend the money to train your people on how best to serve them.

The best we can do is put ourselves in the customer’s shoes: do things for a customer the way that the customer would do them for themselves. In other words…don’t infuriate them!

John Tschohl is a professional speaker, trainer, consultant, and the author of Achieving Excellence through Customer Service. He is the president and founder of Service Quality Institute in Minneapolis, Minn. He can be reached on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.