Magazine article American Banker

Viewpoint: Even in a Crisis, Service Is Critical

Magazine article American Banker

Viewpoint: Even in a Crisis, Service Is Critical

Article excerpt

Byline: Thad Peterson

The focus of bank managers and shareholders right now is on getting through the storm, but customers often suffer the consequences of cost-cutting decisions made by a management committee.

Retail customers see headlines about failures that can cause worry, regardless of the relevance to their own situation. They may see fewer people in their branch, or they may listen to hold music longer when they call with a problem. Maybe some of their fees have gone up for no particular reason.

Small-business customers worry about getting through this rough patch, and credit has either gotten more restrictive or dried up completely.

Regardless of what's happening with the bank, customer service representatives and tellers are dealing with the same problems, and the same people, that they were handling before. Only now they have nervous customers, and they probably have fewer people to help deal with them.

Research shows that bad customer service can have a dramatic impact on customer attrition. There isn't a perfect solution to the problem, but there are a few things that can be done to lessen the impact on the customer experience.

Listen to your staff. It's critical to know how the front line is feeling and what they are hearing from customers to address possible emerging issues head-on.

Reinforce messaging in multiple ways. The front line needs clear and accurate information to answer questions and present the bank's case to customers. Press releases and other announcements about new developments or strategies should go to every employee, along with a scripted response to likely questions. …

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