Wells Seeks A Customer Satisfaction Turnaround

By Cole, Jim | American Banker, September 18, 2006 | Go to article overview

Wells Seeks A Customer Satisfaction Turnaround


Cole, Jim, American Banker


A frequent also-ran in customer satisfaction polls, Wells Fargo & Co. says it is working to improve service and boost loyalty.

In an interview this month in his San Francisco office, John Stumpf, Wells' president and chief operating officer, said he started an effort two to three months ago to improve what he calls "the customer experience." The goals are improving customer loyalty by reducing wait times in call centers and branches, and implementing technology to create friendlier automated teller machines.

"I would say customer experience is the No. 1 priority," Mr. Stumpf said. "I can't think of anything that has a bigger payoff for our team members, for our shareholders, for our communities, and for our customers."

The bid to improve customer satisfaction is set against a backdrop of a changing competitive environment on the West Coast. Wachovia Corp., which, in contrast to Wells, has consistently topped satisfaction polls, is poised for a major expansion there through the acquisition of the Oakland, Calif., thrift company Golden West Financial Corp.

On Friday, Wells said that it would not discuss any competitive threat from Wachovia, and Mr. Stumpf said the effort he is heading is a natural progression for his company.

Wells is seeking to eliminate barriers between business units and distribution channels, in the hope of "exceeding customer expectations in ways that can only be achieved by working together," he said.

For example, Wells Fargo has begun using technology that Mr. Stumpf hopes will allow 90% of customers who phone the company to get all their issues settled without being transferred. The company did not provide the prior transfer rate on calls. For those who are transferred, their information will be available to the next customer service representative in what is known as "a warm handoff."

For those who are transferred, their information would be available to the next customer service representative in what is known in the customer service business as "a warm handoff."

Also, by yearend Wells will install more than 400 image-enabled ATMs so customers can "put in a stack of checks" at once, he said. "It will do all the work. It will read the checks, it will total them up, it will give you your receipt, and it will give you an image of the checks as your receipt."

The $499.5 billion-asset San Francisco company also has been tweaking how it compensates its employees.

"Over the last several years the percentage of the total incentive compensation opportunity was more greatly weighted year after year toward those retention and customer experience scores and balancing them against sales components," said Jay Freeman, the executive vice president in charge of the sales, service, and development department. …

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