In a highly competitive industry such as financial services, looking after customers can often be the point of difference between providers.
This goes beyond simply being polite and welcoming – it’s about how well you know your customers, what insight you have into their financial goals and what solutions you can offer.
Great service also extends into the retail environment within a branch and the business processes that sit behind it which help determine how slick and efficient service can be.
Get it right and customers will often pay that back with loyalty and advocacy, recommending you and your products to others. Let customers down and there are plenty of alternative places they can consider taking their business to.
Standards of service and overall customer satisfaction matter enormously to the West Brom and, with the help of the customer panel, we have been seeking insight from our regular branch users about their experiences.
What customers want
We asked panel members to describe their vision of a great branch experience. Not surprisingly requirements such as prompt service, product knowledge, competitive pricing and offering suitable levels of privacy were all mentioned.
Interestingly though it was the need for friendly, helpful and personable staff that ranked highest for most respondents – clearly it’s the personal touch that invariably counts when dealing with a service provider.
How does this ‘wish list’ compare with real life experiences at the West Brom? Of the customers we contacted, 82% had been to a Society branch in the last 12 months and encouragingly almost a third (31%) noted that the quality of service had improved since their last visit.
Most attributed this improvement to the friendliness of the staff, followed by changes to the branch environment and staff being more attentive.
Rating our performance
We then asked questions around specific elements of our service to see which matter the most and how customers feel we are performing against them.
Top priority is, understandably, given to accuracy when carrying out transactions. Customers also want to know they can trust us to act in their best interests, treat them as individuals and offer products and services that suit their needs.
We were pleased to see very little misalignment between what customers want and how we perform. For example, you said accurate transactions ranked 9 out of 10 in terms of importance – and scored us an average of 8.6 out of 10 on delivery.
There were, however, other areas where performance could be better, such as our effectiveness in dealing with enquires, all of which we will review thoroughly and seek to deliver improvements.
Although the majority of customers we surveyed didn’t feel any changes to our current approach to service in branches was necessary, there were some very useful suggestions put forward.
The most common was to improve privacy, with customers occasionally finding they can overhear conversations while waiting at the counter. This is something we take very seriously and when all our branches were modernised we made a point of increasing the number of private rooms that can be used for consultations or to discuss more sensitive matters.
Always ask a member of staff if you want to make use of one of these rooms and they will endeavour to accommodate your request.
Other customers told us they would like access to a broader range of services such as funeral planning. Again this is something we have taken steps to address, with a new partnership secured in recent months and a revised product range now available in branches.
We’ve looked at all the feedback and comments received and will give careful consideration as to whether or not such changes can be made.
How this helps us
It is hugely satisfying to know that, in the main, our customers are enjoying positive experiences when using our branches and feel satisfied with what the Society has to offer.
We recognise the importance of high service standards and have invested in training for all our customer facing staff around improving customer relationships, recognising their needs and responding with appropriate solutions.
To then see customers acknowledging an improvement in service through their responses to this survey shows definite progress.
James Wright, the West Brom’s Director for Marketing and Distribution, continues: “It’s easy to claim to be a customer focused organisation, but only direct feedback from those people who regularly make use of your services will verify it.
“We are proud to receive encouraging feedback from our panel members, but also appreciate the suggestions they have been forthcoming with for things we could be better at. Some we have acted on already, others are being discussed for possible future improvements.
“It is this flexible approach that is so important – customers’ priorities will inevitably change over time and service providers must react accordingly. This is a commitment from the West Brom to its customers; that we value what you think and are willing to make changes in order to improve your overall experience of dealing with us.”