So a guy and a dolphin walked into a bar to have a drink. The dolphin says - "hey don't worry mate, this one's on me, you pick up the tab the next time". A good time is had by all. The years go by, life goes on and the guy forgets about his debt to the dolphin. The guy runs into the same dolphin at a pool bar some 20Ys later. The dolphin remembers the unpaid debt very well and is not amused to see his irresponsible former friend. The dolphin promptly swamps the guy's cocktail with his tail fins, steals his girlfriend and the dolphin and the girlfriend go off to live happily ever after. Why are we talking about dolphins?
Well, recent research at the University of Chicago found a dolphin's social memory lasts at least 20Ys, which is the longest recorded of any species outside of humans. A number of animals who live in structured hierarchical groups have very long social memories, like elephants, chimpanzees and now dolphins. So far as we know, however, humans still have the longest memories.
For community banks, customer experience is the social memory of business life - it is how your customers perceive the service they receive in your bank. Community banking is all about customer service and most banks we know do a great job. In fact, ask any community bank customer facing team and they will say it is their primary goal to provide excellent service. But what are the components of great service and how important is it really? American Express did a survey about customer attitudes regarding good service and the findings were enlightening.
We know customers talk about their experiences with their friends and it's pretty widely known they share bad experiences more than they share good ones. This study found the average consumer told 9 people about exceptionally good service while they told nearly twice as many about a poor experience. Of the customers who reported a fantastic customer service experience, 67% felt the reason for the quality of their experience was a friendly representative who was also able to solve their concerns.
There are still companies that follow conventional wisdom that service is a business cost rather than an investment that can drive business growth. In response, many customers do not believe companies are making an effort. A full 60% believe businesses have not increased their focus on customer service in fact. Community banks are a bright spot however, since 81% of consumers surveyed believe smaller companies place a greater emphasis on customer satisfaction than large ones.
To drive the business in your bank it is all about customer-facing employees. Banks that have a strong reputation for their customer service understand that the employees who interact with customers are the true ambassadors of their brands. They provide regular training and seek out the right people. They then ask them what they need and empower them to succeed. One top ranked company even aspires to build the confidence and ability of employees to a level where they can respond to each customer's needs in a unique way.
This all is interesting to be sure, but how does it drive growth? The survey found that Americans place an ever larger premium on quality service and 70% are willing to spend more (13% more) with companies they believe will provide it. Do all you can to maintain and improve the social memories of your customers and it will drive the success of your bank. Finally, if a dolphin buys you a drink, always reciprocate the hospitality.