Jeff Judy

Jeff's Thoughts - November 20, 2013

Who Ya Gonna Call?

In my constant travels around the country in training sessions with bankers and bank management, as well as in my consulting work, customer service is frequently a topic of discussion. I often hear, "Our bank's service to customers is the best in our marketplace." I am also sometimes told, "Our bank is as good or better than any other bank in our area," which doesn't seem like a very high standard.

But, in practice, those two statements are pretty much the same. When a bank claims their service is "the best," they usually mean, "compared to other banks".

The question is, is that how your customers value your service, by comparing you to other banks? Not very likely.

After all, most of your customers are not even interacting with other banks. They don't have firsthand experience of the customer service at your direct rivals, so "service at other banks" is not how they decide whether they like the way your bank treats them.

Your measuring stick, in terms of service, is other types of service providers, not other banks. Every one of your customers has multiple service experiences in a typical day, and they all contribute to that customer's personal standards for acceptable, much less outstanding, service.

Imagine one of your customers, let's say a small business owner who has some credit and deposit products with your bank. Further imagine a to-do list that person has drawn up, one that mixes business and personal items.

On the list are, say, a call to a plumber, or to a heating contractor for a furnace tune-up; stops at the dry cleaner and at the hardware or grocery store on the way home; a question to get answered by the business's attorney or accountant; an appointment to make on a healthcare issue; a request for some information from an insurer; and a call to the bank to discuss a perceived issue.

My question is, when the customer's eye hits that to-do item, "call the bank," does that lead to immediate action, or to procrastination? What's the emotional reaction the customer experiences upon seeing a reminder for that task?

To put it more bluntly, what are the chances that they put the call off because they expect the experience to be frustrating? What's the probability that they would rather interact with their plumber or their doctor's office or the hardware store than with your bank? (Or, what's the chance that they make the call immediately, not because they expect a pleasant experience, but because it is the worst thing on the list and they want to get it over with?)

The standards for "good service" are set by all those experiences with a variety of businesses and individuals throughout the day. That's what you are competing against. Being satisfied with "best in industry" service doesn't mean a lot in an industry that enjoys little trust from the public. Being "best in industry" doesn't lead customers to eagerly accept your next call or e-mail to discuss a new product or service. It doesn't generate much loyalty, just a certain complacency, if not resignation.

We could do a lot better. If your bank can offer me better service than my bank, that's nice. If your bank can be as efficient as my dry cleaner, or listen to my needs as well as my plumber does, now you've got me! Set your standards to meet mine, based on the community, instead of to meet your rivals', and you just might turn me into a loyal customer who is more than willing to consider additional products and services.