Why is customer care mission critical for retail bankers?
By: Andrew Search
The first question leaders must ask themselves is what business are we in? It’s something that sounds like it deserves an entirely obvious answer particularly when you start to listen to the responses. Senior retail bankers may describe their business in terms of financial intermediation or brand and portfolio management; certainly balance sheet management will be mentioned. These are all important activities however note how this describes the business from the bank’s point of view. When what is required is a view of the business from the customer perspective. So, it pays to remember, retail banks are in the business of retail, a people business focussed on understanding and satisfying customer needs delivered through a culture of customer care.
We are all customers and as such, pretty much decide on whether or not to deal with a bank based on the alignment of the bank’s offers with our needs – and of course any on-going relationship will also demand consistency of service and a positive customer experience. Like any retail business entire existence of the bank depends on serving customers professionally and ethically. So whilst balance sheet management is important, creating a culture of customer care is more important.
Where does Customer Service Quality (CSQ) fit in? Well it is important and a necessary first step, creating positive customer sentiment and helping customer advocacy. Indeed customers who receive excellent CSQ are more likely to purchase additional products and services. However CSQ is but one step in the value-chain of service, other factors include employee satisfaction and loyalty, employee productivity, the creation of customer value and the role of the sales teams.
Customer care is a customer-focussed culture where the customer is at the heart of all decision making, it is a mindset that pervades the entire bank supported by a customer value proposition that is created and fostered by the leadership to meet and exceed customer expectations. Indeed the word care indicates that an emotional connection between the customer and the bank is essential in a culture of customer care. This culture is centred on two main stakeholders, customers and employees and if employees are engaged then a direct result is customer satisfaction.
That begs the question, what are the drivers of employee engagement? There is significant evidence that employees become more engaged when at least three factors are in place. Firstly, a common direction and purpose so employees understand the bank’s goals and also their part in achieving them. Secondly, leading-edge talent management that ensures an adequate supply of core skills and a matching of these skills with the job requirements at any given time. And thirdly a performance management culture where employees are compensated and motivated to deliver. Employee empowerment is the key here. Managers must facilitate these three drivers whilst paying attention to employee quality. Employee quality refers to employees that are educated, i.e. have a broad knowledge in the functional areas of retail banking and ethical i.e. who do what’s right for the customer, as they are critical in the creation of a culture of customer care.
There remains one missing ingredient, the glue that cements this culture – customer trust. Trust is not an easy concept to define, however an academic definition runs like this, Person A trusts person B, if A is psychologically willing to be vulnerable to the discretionary actions of B. Customer trust also reduces the risk of the customer dealing with another bank. This begs another question, what are the drivers of customer trust? Research has evidenced at least six types of trust ranging from integrity and competency based trust to benevolence and identification based trust.