The Customer Effect

This call may be recorded: Bank execs are listening to customer service calls

  • BankMobile is putting lot of weight behind understanding what its customers think of its product and service
  • Financial services companies are investing more in listening to customer complaints.

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This call may be recorded: Bank execs are listening to customer service calls
Every Tuesday, BankMobile executives meet as a team. On speakerphone, they listen to a selection of customer calls that came in that week in an effort to figure out what people were upset about and if the problems were fixed. "We listen to detractors as well as promoters," said Warren Taylor, BankMobile chief financial officer. "If they're detractors, we find out what customers are upset with. We use customer service data to figure out if there is a training issue or if there's a systemic error that we are able to fix." BankMobile is putting lot of weight behind understanding what its customers think. It records all calls, and four employees are tasked with listening to them. Every call center agent is scored, and when management sees a problem, agents get put back on a training cycle, said Taylor. And if the calls are exceptionally negative, Taylor himself will call the customer back to apologize or send a small gift. As customers aggressively troll finance companies on social media, a call that goes wrong can be quickly reported by customers online. To contain reputational risks, banks and insurers are putting more resources behind resolving customer complaints. For branchless BankMobile, chipping at customer pain points is an important part of building trust with them. "It's tougher with a mobile bank to create an emotional tie with a customer," said Taylor. "The only way to keep the customer for life is to offer great service." Taylor explained that at the end of customers' calls, they are prompted to take a satisfaction survey, and the survey data, along with social media comments, are summarized in a weekly report for executives that's sent out on Mondays. The leadership team meets the next day to listen to calls -- an activity he said helps them get a sense of what's working and what's not. The No. 1 thing customers are frustrated about is having to call more than once to get an issue resolved, he said. A 2014 PwC survey found that two of five customers would shift their business to another bank after a bad experience, and just over half said they would stay loyal to their institution if an issue was resolved positively. And as Tearsheet reported in May, reputational risk is a big enough issue that banks are turning to third-party companies to monitor customer feelings expressed online. BankMobile also tracks social media commentary and takes action if necessary. One customer whose card stopped working was told she would be mailed a new card, but when it didn't arrive in a couple of days, she took to social media to vent. BankMobile staff noticed the complaint and arranged to have funds sent to her through Western Union, said Taylor. The bigger banks are also investing in call-listening efforts. A Bank of America spokesperson said the bank shares customer feedback with the company's senior leaders, who also listen to customer calls on a regular basis. The customer sentiment data is used to "fix issues and improve our processes," she said. Manulife, a Canada-based insurer and financial services provider that has a call-listening program, said the objective is not to clamp down on the service agents, but to get a more holistic picture and assess what could have been done better. "The intention of call listening is not to judge the customer service professional or the customer, but to truly focus on the customer’s experience on the call," said Joanna Lohrenz, vp of group benefits and customer experience. "From the front-line staff to senior executives, we make it a priority to listen." Steven Ramirez, CEO of customer experience research and consulting firm Beyond the Arc, said financial services companies have made a push in "voice of the customer" programs over the past five years due to two primary motivations. They're interested in differentiating from competitors on service offerings, and regulators are closely tracking how companies deal with customer feedback. That's a reason why customer complaints are now being heard at the highest levels of management. "Now, it's risen to the board level -- there's pressure to ensure that from a governance perspective that these issues are not only being heard, but more importantly, being acted on and resolved." The future of customer feedback monitoring will increasingly involve the use of natural-language processing and data-analytics software to help facilitate quicker resolution of customer issues, he added. Changing the way customer service is carried out throughout a company requires more than just diktats from senior management; it requires significant resources devoted to monitoring customer comments and training employees on the front line. "CEOs can't wave a wand," said Taylor. "It takes a lot of work in order to execute on this, and that means constant attention to detail and review for everyone on our team."  

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