I recently came across an interesting article on Huffington Post about how a certain bank’s efforts to improve customer experience fell flat on its face and ended up being awkward and intrusive. The article goes somewhat like this – [You can find the article here]

Steve goes into his bank’s branch and generally carries out a routine set of activities which are usually concluded in a maximum of 5 minutes. He goes into the bank, hands over his paying-in book and cheques, smiles and asks the teller to pay them in. The teller reciprocates with a smile, checks the amount, stamps the book and hands them back to Steve. Once this is done, both of them exchange a customary ‘Thank You’ and then Steve leaves.

However, on this particular day, Steve enters the bank for his usual routine and hands in his paying-in book and cheques. The teller smiles back at him, does her usual routine and then asks Steve “Would you like a cup of coffee?” and then produces a massive tin of Cadbury Roses and says “or one of these?”.

Since such an encounter never happens, Steve is surprised, confused and awkward, and in his own words ‘felt like a 14 year old on his first date’. He never wanted to the bank to take this relationship to the next level and this behavior seemed extremely intrusive to him. Having considered all this, Steve decided to skip the coffee and thus declined the offer. On his way out, he asked the teller why this unusual behavior, to which she flatly replied “It’s Customer Service Day. Orders from Head Office”

Now I am sure the Head Office would have not expected such a turn of events – after all why would a customer be annoyed if he is offered a cup of coffee or some Cadbury chocolates? In fact, he should be delighted by this effort and go and tell all his friends and family about this brilliant concept of ‘Customer Service Day’ which would in-turn lead to positive publicity for the bank! However, the effect which this had on Steve was completely opposite – he was confused by this sudden change of behavior, he felt the effort to be intrusive and he would probably not paint a rosy picture of this incident in front of his friends and family. So where did the bank go wrong?

Firstly, it is absolutely imperative to understand the customer. To truly understand the customer, the bank must know what a particular customer likes, what he dislikes, what are his behavior patterns, his transaction patterns and every small bits and pieces of information which might help them serve him better. In the incident mentioned above, small bits of information about the preferences of Steve, or the fact that he is a man of few words and generally prefers the same short interaction with the teller would have helped the bank infer that Steve is someone who likes to keep banking interactions short and crisp and would probably be offended by any additional intrusion into this relationship. Not all customers are the same, and to understand the needs of each and every customer is what makes a bank truly special for all its customers.

Secondly, it is a bad idea to have a particular day marked out as ‘Customer Service Day’. Good customer service is something which needs to be in the DNA of the bank, every interaction with the client be it over the counter, or over mobile, or over internet needs to be done with the best customer service efforts. Every touch point that the customer has with the bank needs to have exceptional customer service – and it needs to be present every single day he decides to interact with the bank. A single day marked out as ‘Customer Service Day’ would just give the client a feeling that the next day onwards things are going to be back to square-one and customer service will not be a priority for the bank anymore!

With every bank going that extra-mile to improve customer experience, sometimes efforts are made without a proper understanding of what the customer really wants. It is impossible to know everything about a customer, but the bank should be receptive to all the information that can be extracted from the transaction behavior of a customer or even from the conversations (verbal/non-verbal) between them. The banks that are most proactive in getting such information capturing systems and processes in place would be the ones leading the race. Try and cross the barriers to understanding a customer, and positive customer experience will automatically follow suit!

As in the words of Pink Floyd

“Tell me is something eluding you sunshine? Is this not what you expected to see? If you wanna to find out what’s behind these cold eyes? You’ll just have to blow your way through this Disguise”

– By CustomerXPs

CustomerXPs offers real-time, intelligent products that empower banks with instant insights enabling influenced outcomes of deeper customer engagement and fraud-free transactions.

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