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It's the customer, stupid

Think tanks and marketing strategists can spend hours – and millions of dollars – on developing headline-grabbing policies and campaigns to get people to spend more. But in reality, it’s actually quite straight forward. As Bill Clinton might have said if he’d spent his career in banking rather than politics: “It’s the customer, stupid.”

 

Essentially, it’s the level of service you offer customers and their experience of doing business with you that’s the difference between them remaining loyal to you and recommending you to others, or crossing you off their shopping list. Retail banks bang on about being customer focused. But are they really? Do you have a director for customer experience on your board? Thought not...

 

Like politicians, banks talk big about how they’ve invested in making things better for customers and improved their offerings. They’re well-crafted sound bites, but scratch a little deeper and can you honestly say the service you offer is as good as it could – or should – be? Banks are so locked into rigid siloes by their products and IT systems that they can’t handle the rigors of full-on customer experience.

 

Customers believe that when they’re talking to their bank, it knows everything about them– their mortgages, savings and investments. That’s why they get so annoyed when you keep offering them products they already have or don’t need. And, judging by the number of times call centre staff hear ‘I’ve already told you that’, it’s infuriating to ask the same old questions every time they try to open a new account or carry out a transaction.

 

Customer experience is also about understanding how people like to receive information. And if you’re going the whole hog, you’ll have to allow customers to control the conversation. Multichannel communications means adapting so you talk to customers in the way they want and understand and at the right time and via the right channel.

 

If you’re taking customer experience seriously, you should be starting at the top. At GMC we believe there should be someone at executive level who has a total view of customer service covering all customers, so they can help deliver a seamless and individual experience to each and every one. That person should ensure you have policies that mean every touchpoint –from bank branch to internet bank, call centre to correspondence – delivers a positive and seamless experience.

 

The quality of the service you provide has never been more important, with challenges coming hard and fast on all fronts. For example, you’ve got the new rules on seven-day bank account switching to contend with. They’ll make it easier than ever for customers to switch to you – and leave you – so you have to give them every reason to stay loyal. Then there’s the crowded banking market, which is set to get even more competitive. The new challenger banks opening up lack the legacy problems of established organisations and are ready to push the old guard to the limits. And with more and more consumers turning to Twitter and Facebook to vent their frustrations at poor service, it’s never been more important to make the right impression – Barclays’ position at the bottom of the Move Your Money survey of banks and financial institutions proves this. Barclays endured not only a series of high profile negative press pieces, but a deluge or Twitter, Facebook and other comments following the result, as millions shared their customer service horror stories online, warning others not to switch to the bank.

 

In a world where customers demand choice, banks can’t ignore the practicalities of delivering a good customer experience anymore: let’s lead from the top.

 

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