Customer Service and Retail Banking—One Depends Upon the Other

With all the struggles in the banking world in recent times, with one bank failing after another, one thing is clear—retail banks must deliver superior customer service in order to survive.

Up until 2006, their future seemed secure no matter how ordinary their customer service practices. But their situation now is precarious. It is estimated that retail banks will not see a return on equity until 2015. And their future will depend upon delivering the kind of service that earns customer loyalty while they are, at the same time, reducing costs.


A recent survey by Bain and Company of almost 100,000 account holders was conducted to determine just what customers valued most in the service they received. The objective was to identify the most critical needs and the “nice-to-haves” on customers’ list of service expectations. With that knowledge (once accommodations were made), retail banks could begin to hope for a stream of loyal customers and for growth in their customer base through referrals from satisfied clients.

Their results confirm what we have been hearing during customer service training and consulting engagements for over two decades. Here, in a nutshell, is what the survey revealed:

  • Credit unions and local, direct banks earn the best marks for providing the quality of customer interactions that bring clients back again and again.
  • Customers highly value friendly service and personal attention.
  • They prize efficiency and convenience.
  • Routine transactions provide opportunities for the high-touch interactions customers appreciate but are costly for the banks.
  • Customers look for good rates and easy-to-understand banking options.
  • Customers do not like high or hidden fees. And they especially do not like it when banks change the rules on them mid-stream.

In order for retail banks to stay afloat, they need to figure out how to lower their costs while they continue to provide the positive and personal interactions that customers value.


One way to accomplish this is to take advantage of technology to deliver efficient service for the more mundane transactions and save the personal connections for the transactions with a greater payoff, like loan applications or replacing lost credit cards.

The positive “buzz” of happy customers can bring many new customers aboard…especially once their comments are part of social media…and it can strengthen a brand better than any expensive advertising campaign.

Ensure the loyalty of your customers by learning what they care about and serving them strategically.



Do You Know What Your Customers Truly Expect?

The measure of a customer’s satisfaction is how well you meet their expectations…meet or exceed them and you have a satisfied customer. The key question, then, is to determine exactly what your customers expect when they walk into your business or reach you by phone or online. Only then can you adjust your service delivery to ensure that you fulfill their perception of quality.

How can you find out what your customers look forward to in terms of service? Based upon over twenty five years of customer service training and consulting, the answer is flippantly simple: Ask them.


Use whatever research tool would produce the most results and match the way your customers come to you.

If your interaction is face-to-face, ask for a moment of their time to help you improve your service and be open to their suggestions. If your interaction is over the phone and they are willing, plug them into a brief (no more than five minute) survey. If they have reached you online, provide an easy link to a survey that will rate your service performance. In each case you may need to offer an incentive—like a chance to win a universally appealing prize.

Until you uncover the specifics of what your customer expect, here is a checklist of six common expectations that customers want:

  • Speedy service
  • Friendly and knowledgeable service reps
  • Accurate and complete answers to their questions
  • Well-trained first responders so they are not referred from level to level
  • Information capture so that, once provided, there is no need to repeat account and issue information
  • A pleasant environment—either a user-friendly web site, short phone delays with periodic check-ins, or a clean facility

The above list is not rocket science. We are all customers and know good and bad service when we experience it. But it is the hidden factor that can make the difference. Do any of the following strike a chord?

Closeup of a beautiful business customer service woman smiling
Closeup of a beautiful business customer service woman smiling

Some customers very much appreciate a walk-through by phone to try to repair a broken appliance on their own and resent having to pay for a service call. Some customers would walk out of a store if they were not welcomed personally. How about the service rep with an accent who will not slow down to be better understood?

And have you experienced the frustration of making a final online purchase only to learn it is out of stock?

Reap the benefits of highly satisfied customers by learning precisely what they expect. The research for your specific situation is worth it—they will become loyal clients and bring you additional business through their own purchases and through their friend-and-family referrals.


Why Customer Service Training?

It’s easy to convince people that they need to have their employees trained on products, computer systems and software. After all, you have to know about the product ad how to enter orders and complete sales related tasks. But training people in customer Service??? Are You CRAZY? Why would I do that????

Look, the reality is that the competition for both customers and sales is at an all time high. We no longer have to worry about competition in our town or backyard, but now we have people from all over the world competing for our customers via the Internet! 20 years ago, we had a handful of competitors wheras today, that number could run into the thousands!

A studio shot of a driven businessman ripping open his shirt and exposing a costume underneath

What does all of this have to do with Customer Service Helpline Training? Well, customers with more options are likely to be both more demanding and less tolerant of mistakes and problems. They think “Why should I deal with them after they were rude to me? There are a lot of other places I can buy my stuff from!” In other words, customers today are not going to put up with some of the things they accepted years ago.

The other problem is that we sometimes are not aware of those “things” that upset or annoy our customers! Not because we don’t care, but because we are not trained to think about our customers and their experience. We are not trained because some people feel that training is not necessary!

The fact is, businesses and employees who are trained in Customer Service perform at a higher level, create higher customer satisfaction, and generate fewer problems and stress than their untrained counterparts. This means those with Customer Service Training are more efficient and generate more revenue! Businesses that have trained people lose far fewer customers and spend far less resources in bringing in new customers to replace the angry ones who left. With all these benefits to Customer Service Training, why is it so hard to convince people and business owners to invest in this important training?


The main reason is, unlike other type of training, you cannot put an actual dollar figure on how much revenue this training helped generate or save. After all, how can anyone measure how much one angry customer cost the business? Can we tell to a certainty how many people he would convince to buy elsewhere or how many customers he would not tell in the future? The #1 obstacle in getting businesses to accept the value of Customer Service Training is because we cannot provide a hard and fast value ourselves.

But this type of training is critical for the success of every business and every employee. This training should be a part of every persons education and every new employee training package. Every year more and more businesses and individual are seeing the benefits and value in Customer Service Training. Are you going to be one of those this year? Or are others going to leave you behind as they embrace this important training?

It’s something to think about…