Jeff Judy

Jeff's Thoughts -January 30 , 2013

Everybody = Nobody

Who is looking after the customer in your bank?

Please, do not tell me that the customer is "everybody's responsibility," that every single employee looks after your customers. Sure, I'll grant you that everyone knows that customers are important, and that everyone intends to treat them well.

But that's not the same as being responsible for customer satisfaction. It is not the same as holding someone individually accountable for knowing how customers feel, for reviewing how bank practices impact customers, for vigorously advocating for change not only in response to problems customers experience, but for change that will head off problems before they occur.

I was reminded of this by a recent post from Sallie Krawcheck with suggestions about how banks can climb out of their position, year after year, as the least trusted industry in the U.S.. Some of her suggestions were quite bold, such as paying employees based on customer satisfaction and trust, and having a consumer ombudsman who reports to the board. In others, she chastised the industry for valuing maximum legal protection over customer satisfaction, citing the opacity of product and fee disclosures and the overly careful apologies that are issued when an institution makes a mistake or even misbehaves. (We like to start our apologies for our mistakes by stating up front that we don't admit that we did anything wrong. How sincere!)

When everybody accepts the need to treat customers well, is anyone taking the initiative to fight to improve the customer experience? After all, "everybody" in the banking industry frustrates customers with everything from confusing product and fee disclosures to endless and tedious phone menus.

Customer satisfaction may be an institution-wide value, but ultimately, it needs a champion. When banks tell me that "everybody" looks after the customer's interests, it reminds me of those recordings you get when you're on hold, telling you that "your call is very important to us." There's nothing more rewarding to a customer than hearing about how much they are valued from a recording.

Who, in your bank, is in a position to take on the lawyers, and the marketing function, to make sure a new product or a change in fees is transparent and easily understood by the customer? Who collects complaints and presents them with some passion to the bank's leadership? Are complaints and customer requests reviewed thoughtfully, or simply logged and tallied?

Where does the customer satisfaction "buck" stop, as the saying goes? My criterion for commitment to the customer experience is that there's someone in the bank who harps on customers' needs and desires enough to be annoying! If you don't have someone who is occasionally making others a little uncomfortable about falling short, in serving customers, if you do not have people complaining that "So and so is always going on and on about the customer's point of view," you probably could do more.

If everybody in your bank -- not just the front lines, but everyone involved in the business -- believes in excellent customer service, that's a wonderful thing. But a team's success demands leadership, not just a shared goal. A group of people who share a common feeling or belief, without leaders to hold the rest of them responsible, may just be a crowd, even a mob.

If nobody is in charge of enhancing the customer experience, it's pretty likely that everybody is waiting for someone else to take the lead in fighting for a better customer experience. Without individually assigned accountability for customer service, backed with consistent leadership support, everybody will carry on business as usual.

Is that good enough for your customers?