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Banks and Customer Service

A Managing Director of a major Australian bank committed an amazing act recently. He proposed that bank customers had it wrong – that instead of criticizing banks, customers should be sending banks letters of congratulations because they were doing such a good job.

‘… The People of Australia should be sending telegrams of congratulations to each of the major banks and some of the others as well’

‘They should be sending letters of congratulations to … the Reserve Bank and they should be sending letters of congratulations to a stack of politicians who have stuck with some fundamentals in Australia over the last decade’.

This is an amazing act, as this outcry flies in the face of customer service wisdom.

What this Managing Director has done is to tell his customers that they are wrong – that their perception is wrong. This is the kind of act that most organisations, including banks, teach their front line staff NOT to do – if a customer has a particular point of view, we must refrain from denying the validity of their view. To do so is to tell them they are wrong!

The basics of customer service tell us that the customer’s perception is their reality – in essence it does not matter what we think about the quality of our service or product. Unless our customers think we are doing a good job, then we are not.

Incredibly, this Managing Director has come out publicly and said that the mainstream view of banks is wrong – he has said ‘Customers, your perceptions are wrong!’ What a great strategy for alienating even more customers!

 

So What Should This Manager Have Said?

When I work with organisations, I often demonstrate a powerful tool and strategy – it is called ‘listening to customers’. I often use banks as the topic of discussion to show the power of this strategy.

I ask people to sit in groups of six to eight and answer two questions:

  • What most important to you when you use your bank?
  • Can you suggest three ways to improve your bank?

After 10 to 15 minutes, I collect answers to these questions from the groups. The answers are often incredibly useful, and more often than not, their implementation would not cost banks very much.

I use these questions to demonstrate the power of Focus Group Sessions to acquire information from customers. I raise two major points:

  • It is interesting to be part of a Focus Group – when you are involved as a customer, you time goes by quickly, as the discussion is both interesting and motivating
  • The information that emerges from a Focus Group session is of priceless value to the organisation – and it comes at very little cost!

Perhaps this Managing Director could ponder such as strategy. Rather than telling his customers that their perception is wrong, perhaps he could have asked them for their views on how service could be improved - from their perspective. Perhaps the very act of listening to customers might have a positive effect as well.

Perhaps we can all learn from this incredible act!

 

 
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