By David Ender
As the president and owner of a mystery-shopping service firm that serves the needs of financial institutions, I am always struck by the absence of top-notch quality customer service. At a time when the level of business competition has significantly increased, is it any wonder that customer loyalty is fast becoming an endangered species? Overall, customer service is lackluster and nondescript at best.
Given this epidemic of poor or non-existent customer service, successful business organizations are checking up on their most valuable and important marketing tools – their employees. These organizations know all too well that each member of their customer service team is a critical link and personifies, pleasant or unfriendly, the professional service brand image in the eyes of their customers.
Recognizing this vital fact, these companies invest marketing research dollars in a quality service engagement to learn of their customer’s expectations. The conclusions drawn from such customer surveys and focus groups often mirror the ABCs of very basic customer service expectancies. All customers want to feel valued and appreciated by the business organizations to which they have given their trust and their dollars. Customers evaluate service experiences with representatives in two ways – verbal communication and non-verbal communication.
Who among us has not experienced the total lack of interest and interpersonal skills demonstrated by the majority of supermarket personnel who process our grocery needs? Generally speaking, these supermarket employees are uninspired, unmotivated and disconnected from the needs of the people who make their employment possible. Unlike 40 years ago when quality customer service went hand-in-hand with competitive prices, today’s service experience is often severely lacking in warmth, friendliness and the overall mannerism of helpfulness so critical to customer attraction and retention.
As the owner of a mystery-shopping company, I tell my clients that their service teams, when interacting with the customers, represent the bank’s image in their business brand. Rather than assuming that these representatives take personal ownership of personifying an exceptional level of quality customer service, these organizations conduct regular, timely customer service quality check-ups that take the form of professional mystery shops. The shops are designed to evaluate incumbent customer service and selling skills based upon an existent and established set of customer service standards that are emblematic of an organization’s service brand. Once initial mystery shops have been completed for a bank, a baseline of service performance can be created to serve as a diagnostic tool to identify what is working well and what service skills need improvement.
As a training and development tool, institutions utilizing these shopping services can strengthen their service brand in the eyes of those they serve. In doing so, these organizations are better equipped to deliver a level of customer service that is in step with customer expectations.
When selecting mystery shopping services, financial institutions should always seek out firms that are familiar and qualified in the degree of knowledge necessary to evaluate both customer expectations and employee performance standards. The shops should seek to capture moments of professional real-life employee behavior in both verbal and non-verbal forms of communication in order to assess the overall quality of a one-to-one customer service experience.
In working with my clients, I recommend that a series of mystery shops be conducted three to four times annually for an accurate assessment of staff service performance, ensuring that a high level of customer service is consistently delivered and felt by customers. Institutions that regularly include mystery shopping services as part of a total marketing plan soon discover that they have greater control of how their service brand is delivered by their service teams.
By following this easy business prescription for success, these banks enhance their competitive ability to attract, retain and grow their customer base. So, if your institution is overdue for a service check-up, perhaps now is the time to consider this straightforward and trouble-free Rx for continued success.
David Ender is owner of Sellright & Customer Insights. His area of expertise is in banker sales training. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.