Customer satisfaction is often measured but is also difficult to explain and even more difficult to achieve. Yet some companies manage to achieve high rankings on a regular basis. The life insurance company Northwestern Mutual wins top accolades in the life insurance industry year after year. This is interesting because life insurance is similar to banking in that there is little to clearly differentiate one brand from another and there are lots of brands to choose from. For its part, Northwestern credits its success to its agents and especially the time they take to understand their clients' needs in designing a plan with a foundation for managing risk and achieving long-term financial goals. Basically, like many community banks, they sell service.
Selling service and achieving customer satisfaction is important, so what can community bankers do to improve? We note behavioral scientists have researched the factors that determine levels of customer satisfaction and they have found that there may be a hierarchy to what is most important. Based on that, here are some things community banks should focus on to improve customer satisfaction.
First, take the medicine. Behavioral scientists say you should put the most unpleasant part of a deal right out in front of the customer. Whether it is fees or filling out a loan application, finishing the hard part first frees the customer up to move on to the best parts of a product or service.
Next, create numerous pleasant occurrences. The perception of an experience can be linked to the number of breaks that occur in a particular event. Having several smaller nice things happen to the customer has a larger impact than one big event. It's like having several tasty courses served in a meal rather than one big helping. It is just more exciting on the senses.
Third, provide customers an opportunity to design their own plan. Giving your customers choices in product or service delivery, such as being able to create their own account attributes, or how to receive communication, brings them into the process and makes them feel more involved.
Fourth, provide consistent service. Customers want to trust the consistency of the interaction they receive from your bank and find repetitive experiences comforting. Training is critical here so customers get consistent experiences every time they interact with your bank and its staff. While new experiences are exciting, it is the repetitive rituals the score the highest in satisfaction.
Finally, save your best for last. First impressions are important, but the single largest factor in a quality impression is the ending experience. The final customer interaction is what resides in the memory, so be sure it is a good one. Set your experiences up so you deliver a positive surprise at the end, like cost savings or an additional service and you will leave a lasting positive impact.
Community banks already deliver many of these elements of service, but they may not be formalized. To improve results, focus on customer behavior as you spend some time building a check list for every customer interaction. Then, communicate the blueprint for a successful experience to every customer facing employee. Different transactions have different complexity levels, but never forget the customer experience is the most important piece. Focus on delivering great AND consistent customer service as you take the time to view the business from your customer's point of view. Then, apply a plan and watch customer satisfaction soar.