As bank contact centers transition from service hubs to sales centers. It is instructive to investigate which service attributes and behaviors will yield the most ROI in terms of driving sales through the contact center channel.
Beyond the attributes measured in the previous post, Kinesis also performed mystery shop observations of specific behaviors across six institutions with national scope to determine their relationship to purchase intent.
While the importance of a good first impression is true, across the four greeting behaviors measured, there does not appear to any significant differences between shops with positive purchase intent and shops with negative purchase intent.
|Greeting||Increased Purch Intent||Decreased Purch Intent|
|Greet by identifying the name of the institution||99%||97%|
|Greet by identifying themselves||100%||97%|
|Ask how they could assist||100%||98%|
This is mostly due to the high rate of performance across these greeting behaviors. Greetings are strong across all shops regardless of purchase intent.
With respect to broader service behaviors, the behaviors with the largest gaps between shops with positive purchase intent and those with negative purchase intent are: suggesting additional products and asking for the business (each with about 2 times as many shoppers who experience positive purchase intent observing these behaviors compared to shoppers who experience negative purchase intent). Use name, use of understandable descriptions and clarity of speech round out the next three.
Hold & Transfer Behaviors
When the shopper was placed on hold, five behaviors were measured. Of these, giving an estimate of how long the customer will be on hold, and returning if the hold time exceed the original estimate to advice of the status of the call were the behaviors with the strongest relationship to purchase intent. Again, both with about 2 times as many shoppers who experienced positive purchase intent observing these behaviors compared to shoppers who experienced negative purchase intent.
Additionally, five transfer behaviors were measured. Of these, the behavior with the strongest relationship to purchase intent by far is returning to explain any delay after 60 seconds. With five times as many shoppers who reported positive purchase intent observing this behavior relative to those who reported negative purchase intent.
Finally, at the conclusion of the call, asking how else the agent could be of assistance and thanking the shopper for choosing the institution were the two behaviors with the strongest relationship to purchase intent.
Of the behaviors measured, a couple of common themes tend to be present in the behaviors with strong relationships to purchase intent. The behaviors with strong relationships to purchase intent tend to deal with the themes of personalized service and valuing the customer.
These behaviors with strong relationships to purchase intent group into these two themes as follows:
- If transfer hold time exceeds 60 seconds, explain delay and ask if customer wants to continue (this behavior 5 times more likely in shops with positive purchase intent compared to negative)
- Give estimate of hold time (2.1 times more frequent in shops with positive purchase intent compared to negative)
- If hold exceeds estimate, return with status update (1.8 times more frequent)
- If transfer, stay on line until completed (1.6 times)
- Use of name (1.5 times)
- Ask how else could assist (1.5 times)
- Suggest additional products or services (2.1 times more frequent in shops with positive purchase intent)
- Ask for business (1.9 times)
- Thanks for choosing the institution (1.5 times)
To maximize purchase intent, focus agents on behaviors which personalize the service in an empathetic manner (care for the customer and their needs) and value their business.
Historically, bank contact centers have served primarily as service hubs, serving customers who call for information or are seeking assistance dealing with a problem in need of resolution. As banks continue to transition into an omni-channel model where customers can interact with the institution across a broad spectrum of channels, the contact center is transitioning into a sales hub, where customers who have researched a product online may still want to speak with a person prior to completing the purchase. As a result, contact center agents will require a new set of sales skills.
To help understand some of the new skill sets required of contact center agents as they transition from a service to sales role, Kinesis conducted mystery shops of six institutions with national scope to identify what customer experience attributes will yield the most ROI in supporting this sales role.
Our conclusion is customers want empathy and competence. They want agents who both care about their needs and can satisfy those needs.
Kinesis performed an analysis of purchase intent to identify the attributes with the most potential for ROI in supporting a sales role. We asked shoppers to rate the experience across a spectrum of service attributes on a 5-point scale where 1 is poor and 5 is excellent; as well assigning a purchase intent rating on a similar 5-point scale. We then cross tabulated the results by purchase intent to identify which attributes have the largest gap between shops which reported positive purchase intent and those which reported negative purchase intent.
Confidence in the Agent, valuing as a customer, interest in helping and explain the products in understandable terms are the four attributes with largest gaps between shops with positive purchase intent and negative, followed by professionalism and job knowledge. Friendliness/courtesy was the attribute with the smallest gap. While friendliness is important, when it comes to driving purchase intent, the attributes with the largest gaps are those related to care and competence. Customers want agents who care about their needs, and are capable of delivering on those needs.
Previously, we also explored the relationship of specific sales and service behaviors to purchase intent.
Cross Tabulation By Purchase Intent
|Greeting||Increased Purch Intent||Decreased Purch Intent|
|Greet by identifying the name of the institution||99%||97%|
|Greet by identifying themselves||100%||97%|
|Ask how they could assist||100%||98%|
|Hold||Increased Purch Intent||Decreased Purch Intent|
|Ask permission to be placed on hold first||85%||73%|
|Give the reason for being placed on hold||100%||88%|
|Give an estimate of how long you would be on hold||56%||27%|
|If the actual hold time exceeded the estimate, representative returned to the call to of the status||88%||50%|
|Thank for holding upon returning||96%||81%|
|Transfer||Increased Purch Intent||Decreased Purch Intent|
|Explain the reason for the transfer||99%||98%|
|Ask permission to transfer||84%||65%|
|Stay on the line until the transfer was answered by another representative||53%||33%|
|If hold time exceeded 60 seconds, return to explain delay and ask if you want to continue to hold.||35%||7%|
|Service||Increased Purch Intent||Decreased Purch Intent|
|Use name at least once during the call||66%||44%|
|Use proper grammar||11%||96%|
|Allow customer to speak first and finish your thought||99%||93%|
|Clarify all requests prior to processing the transaction||100%||80%|
|Maintain a friendly demeanor and pleasant voice throughout the call||100%||91%|
|Describe products or services in a manner that was easy to understand||100%||70%|
|Suggest additional products and/or services||71%||34%|
|Avoid bank jargon or other technical financial terms||100%||95%|
|Ask for business||88%||47%|
|Conclusion||Increased Purch Intent||Decreased Purch Intent|
|Thank for calling||98%||92%|
|Ask how else they could assist||95%||65%|
|Thank for choosing the institution||92%||66%|
|Mean Attribute Ratings||Increased Purch Intent||Decreased Purch Intent|
|Interest in Helping||4.9||3.8|
|Explaining products in understandable terms||5.0||3.9|
|Level of confidence in the representative||4.9||3.2|
|Valuing as a customer||4.9||3.5|
Loyalty. There is almost universal agreement that it is an objective – if not the objective – of customer experience management. It is highly correlated to profitably. It lowers sales and acquisition costs per customer by amortizing these costs across a longer lifetime – leading to extraordinary financial results. In retail banking a 5% increase in loyalty translates to an 85% increase in profits.
Loyalty is Emotion Driven
Banks often see themselves as transaction driven; delivery channels are evaluated on their cost per transaction. As a result, there is a lot of attention given to and investment in automated channels which reduce transaction costs and at the same time offer more convenience to customers. Win-win, right? The bank drives costs out of the transaction and customers get the convenience of performing a variety of transactions untethered by time or space. However, while transaction costs and convenience are important, loyalty is often driven by an emotional connection with the institution. An emotional connection fostered by interaction with actual employees at moments of need for the customers –moments with a high level of emotional importance to the customer – moments of truth.
Moments of truth are atypical events, where customers experience a high emotional energy in the outcome (such a lost credit card, loan application, or investment advice). In one study published in McKinsey Quarterly, positive experiences during moments of truth led to more than 85% of customers increasing wallet share by purchasing more products or investing more of their assets (Beaujean et al 06)
Impersonal alternative channels lack the ability to bind the customer to the institution. It’s the people. Effective handling of moments of truth requires frontline staff with the emotional tools or intelligence to recognize the emotional needs of the customer and bind them to the institution.
Previously we discussed the concept of “moments of truth” where some experiences in the customer journey have far greater importance than others. These moments of truth represent increased risk and opportunity to leave a lasting emotional impression on the customer; a lasting impression with significant long-term implications for both customer loyalty and wallet share. Perhaps the most common moment of truth is when something has gone wrong, the customer is unhappy or scared and the relationship is at risk. These events could be the result of: service delivery failures (unavailable service, unreasonably slow service, or other core service failures); customer needs and requests (special customer needs or customer preferences); or an adverse outcome (loan denial or loss of investment principal).
Also, in an earlier post we introduced a model to define emotional states with two dimensions:
1) valence (the extent to which the emotional state is positive or negative) and
2) arousal (the extent to which the energy mobilization of the emotional state is experienced on a scale of active to passive or aroused to calm).
Together, valence and arousal can define all human emotions. States of high arousal and positive valence are excited or happy; low arousal and negative valence are bored or depressed; while states of positive valence and low arousal are calm and relaxed, and negative valence and high arousal are angry or frustrated.
Not surprisingly, people are motivated to maintain positive moods, and mitigate negative affective states. People in negative affective states desire choices that have the potential to change or, in particular, improve their moods. For example, researchers have demonstrated a preference for TV shows that held the greatest promise of providing relief from negative affective states. People in a sad mood want to be comforted; anxious people want to feel control and safety.
Beyond solving the problem, the objective in dealing with an upset customer is to help relieve their negative affective state. If they are angry, attempt to calm them; if anxious, provide comfort. Time and time again, our research across many brands reveals that beyond resolving their problem as efficiently as possible, what customers want is empathy and reliability. We want to talk to someone who both understands how we feel and is reliable. They both have a solution to the problem and what they say will get done, gets done.
Strategies in CX Design
Anticipate potential needs for recovery: In designing tools to monitor the customer experience, managers must be aware of potential moments of truth and design tools to monitor these critical points in the customer journey. Some of these tools include: monitoring customer comments from comment cards or online forms to identify instances where the customer is either extremely happy or dissatisfied; monitor social media to identify common causes of moments of truth; survey tracking specifically focusing on the responses from dissatisfied customers; and mystery shopping to test the response to specific problem scenarios.
Decentralize decision making & empower front-line employees: In empowering frontline employees to serve customers, brands should arm them with statements of general principles and values rather than scripted procedures, which undermine empowerment. Reinforce these principles often so in the moment, when they are in a moment of truth with a customer in need, they have an appropriate framework from which to resolve the issue – and bond the customer to the brand.
Train the frontline: Training the frontline to handle problem resolution requires training not just in decision making, but also emotional intelligence. Can emotional intelligence be taught? Yes, but it requires a unique approach of self-discovery. Self-discovery is not a top-down process, however. Managers can foster it through feedback, encouragement to reflect on their own successes and failures, and anecdotes about other employees.
Specifically, tactics frontline employees can employ to handle upset customers include:
• Acknowledging the problem;
• Own the problem;
• Fix the problem;
• Provide assurance; and
• Provide compensation.
Customers experiencing a problem want to change their negative affective state. When dealing with an upset customer it is incumbent on the frontline to help relieve this negative state. Time and time again, in research study after research study, Kinesis finds that the two service attributes that influence customers in a positive way when they encounter a problem are empathy and reliability. Customers want to interact with employees who understand their feelings and are able to resolve the problem.
Previously we discussed the concept of “moments of truth” where some experiences in the customer journey have far greater importance than others. These moments of truth represent increased risk and opportunity to leave a lasting emotional impression on the customer; a lasting impression with significant long-term implications for both customer loyalty and wallet share. The purchase and sales experience is one such moment of truth. One study published in McKinsey Quarterly has determined that the purchase experience of financial services motivated 85% bank customers to purchase more financial products or invest more assets with the institution. (Beaujean et al 06)
We also introduced the concept of defining emotions using two dimensions of mood: valence (positive or negative) and arousal. Again, as we previously observed, modern research into brain activity during the decision process suggests that decisions are made within the brain before we are consciously of them. Emotions provide a short cut to acting on decisions, and rational thought appears to justify decisions after they are made on the subconscious level.
So…given that emotions play a key role in financial decisions, what are the emotions bankers encounter as part of the sales experience?
The emotions financial service customers experience vary by customer, financial need, circumstance and product/service sought, however the emotions a prospective customer may experience include:
• At Ease/Satisfied
So…what do we do with this enlightenment?
First, knowing that people are motivated to maintain positive emotional states and change/mitigate negative emotional states, it is important for the banker to recognize the prospective customer’s emotional motivation and offer solutions which will achieve either of these ends.
Kinesis has conducted research into purchase intent as the result of financial service sales presentation which may be instructive. Click here for this research.
Time and time again, in study after study, we consistently observe that purchase intent is driven by two dimensions of the customer experience: reliability and empathy. Customers want bankers who care about them and their needs and have the ability to satisfy those needs. Specifically, our research suggests the following behaviors are strongly related to purchase intent:
Interest in Helping
Discuss Benefits & Solutions
Promised Services Get Done
Friendly & Courteous
Both empathy and reliability require employees with Emotional Intelligence. These are employees with a positive outlook and a, strong sense of self-empowerment; self regulation; awareness of feelings (both their own and customers); master of fear and anxiety and the ability to tap into selfless motives.
Sales presentations are moments of truth with the potential to leave a lasting impression on the customer with significant long-term implications for both customer loyalty and wallet share – with obvious financial benefits for the institution. We’ve found that branches with above average frequencies of behaviors associated with reliability and empathy experienced a 26% stronger three-year branch deposit growth rate than branches with low frequencies of these behaviors.
Next, we’ll take a look at moments of truth in the context of problem resolution.
Onboarding Research: Research Techniques to Track Effectiveness of Stabilizing New Customer Relationships
As we explored in an earlier post, 3 Types of Customer Interactions Every Customer Experience Manager Must Understand, there are three types of customer interactions: Stabilizing, Critical, and Planned.
The first of these, “stabilizing” interactions are service encounters which promote customer retention, particularly in the early stages of the relationship.
New customers are at the highest risk of defection, as they have had less opportunity to confirm the provider meets their expectations. Turnover by new customers is particularly damaging to profits because many defections occur prior to recouping acquisition costs, resulting in a net loss on the customer relationship. As a result, customer experience managers should stabilize the customer relationship early to ensure a return on acquisition costs.
Systematic education drives customer expectations beyond simply informing customers about additional products and services; education systematically informs new customers how to use services more effectively and efficiently. Part of this systematic approach to create stabilizing service encounters is to measure the efficacy of customer experience at all stages of this stabilizing process.
The first step in designing a research plan for the onboarding process is to define the process itself. Ask yourself, what type of stabilizing customer experiences do we expect at both initial purchase and at discrete time periods thereafter (be it 30 days, 90 days, 1-year)? Understanding the expectations of the process itself will define your research objectives, allowing an informed judgment of what to measure and how to measure it.
Specific recommendations vary from industry to industry, however, typically, we recommend measuring the onboarding process by auditing the performance of the process and its influence on the customer relationship.
Mystery shopping is an effective tool to audit the performance of the onboarding process.
First, mystery shop the initial sales process to evaluate the efficacy and effectiveness of the sales process. Be sure to link the mystery shop observations to a dependent variable, such as purchase intent, to determine which sales behaviors drive purchase intent. This will inform decisions with respect to training and incentives to reinforce the sales activities which drive purchase intent.
Beyond auditing the initial sales experience, a mystery shop audit of the onboarding process should test the presence and timing of specific onboarding events expected at discrete time periods. As an example, a retail bank may expect the following onboarding process after a new account is opened:
|At Opening||Internet Banking PresentationMobile Banking PresentationContact Center Presentation
|1 – 10 Days||Welcome LetterChecksDebit Card
Internet Banking Password
Overdraft Protection Brochure
Mobile Banking E-Mail
|30 – 45 Days||First StatementSwitch KitCredit Card Offer
Auto Loan Brochure
Mortgage/Home Equity Loan Brochure
In this example, the bank’s customer experience managers have designed a process to make customers aware of more convenient, less expensive channels, as well as additional services offered. An integrated research plan would recruit mystery shoppers for a long-term evaluation to audit the presence, timing, and effectiveness of each event in the onboarding process.
In parallel to auditing the presence and timing of onboarding events, research should be conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the process in stabilizing the customer relationship by surveying new customers at distinct intervals after customer acquisition. We recommend testing the effectiveness of the onboarding process by benchmarking three loyalty attitudes:
- Would Recommend: The likelihood of the customer recommending the brand to a friend relative or colleague.
- Customer Advocacy: The extent to which the customer agrees with the statement, “you care about me, not just the bottom line?”
- Primary Provider: Does the customer consider the branch their primary provider for similar services?
These three measures tracked together throughout the onboarding process will give managers a measure of the effectiveness of stabilizing the relationship.
Again, new customers are at an elevated risk of defection. Therefore, it is important to stabilize the customer relationship early on to ensure ROI on acquisition costs. A well designed research process will give managers an important audit of both the presence and timing of onboarding events, as well as track customer engagement and loyalty early in their tenure.
Every time a customer interacts with a brand, they learn something about that brand, and adjust their behavior based on what they learn. They will adjust their behavior in ways that are either profitable or unprofitable for the brand. The implication of this proposition is that the customer experience can be managed in such a way to influence customer behavior in profitable ways.
In order to understand how to drive customer behaviors via the customer experience, it is first, is important to define the customer behaviors you wish to influence, and to align marketing message, performance standards, training content, employee incentives and measurement systems to encourage those behaviors.
It is impossible, of course, to plan every customer experience or to ensure that every experience occurs exactly as intended. However, companies can identify the types of experiences that impart the right kind of information to customers at the right times. It is useful to group these experiences into three categories of company/customer interaction: Stabilizing, Critical, and Planned.
Stabilizing interactions promote customer retention, particularly in the early stages of the relationship.
New customers are at the highest risk of defection. As customers become more familiar with a brand they adjust their expectations accordingly, however new customers are more likely to experience disappointment, and thus more likely to defect. Turnover by new customers is particularly hard on profits because many defections occur prior to break-even, resulting in a net loss for the company. Thus, experiences that stabilize the customer relationship early on ensure that a higher proportion of customers will reach positive profitability.
The keys to an effective stabilizing strategy are education, competence and consistency.
Education influences expectations, helping customers develop a realistic expectations. It goes beyond simply informing customers about the products and services offered by the company. It systematically informs new customers how to use the brand’s services more effectively and efficiently, how to obtain assistance, how to complain, and what to expect as the relationship progresses. In addition to influencing expectations, systematic education leads to greater efficiency in the way customers interact with the company, thus driving down the cost of customer service and support.
Critical interactions are service encounters that lead to memorable customer experiences. While most service is routine, from time to time a situation arises that is out of the ordinary: a complaint, a question, a special request, a chance for an employee to go the extra mile. The outcomes of these critical incidents can be either positive or negative, depending upon the way the company responds to them; however, they are seldom neutral. The longer a customer remains with a company, the greater the likelihood that one or more critical interactions will have occurred.
Because they are memorable and unusual, critical interactions tend to have a powerful effect on the customer relationship. We often think of as “moments of truth where the brand has an opportunity to solidify the relationship earning a loyal customer or risk the customer’s defection. Positive outcomes lead to “customer delight” and word-of-mouth endorsements, while negative outcomes lead to customer defections, diminished share of wallet and unfavorable word-of-mouth.
The key to an effective critical interaction strategy is opportunity. Systems and processes must be in a position to react to these critical moments of truth.
An effective customer experience strategy should include systems for recording critical interactions, analyzing trends and patterns, and feeding that information back to the organization. Employees can then be trained to recognize critical opportunities, and empowered to respond to them in such a way that they will lead to positive outcomes and desired customer behaviors.
Planned interactions are intended to increase customer profitability through up-selling and cross-selling. These interactions are frequently triggered by changes in the customers’ purchasing patterns, account usage, financial situation, family profile, etc. CRM analytics combined with Big Data are becoming quite effective at recognizing such opportunities and prompting action from service and sales personnel. Customer experience managers should have a process to record and analyzing the quality of execution of planned interactions with the objective off evaluating the performance of the brand at the customer brand interface – regardless of the channel.
The key to an effective strategy for planned interactions is appropriateness. Triggered requests for increased spending must be made in the context of the customers’ needs and permission; otherwise the requests will come off as clumsy and annoying. By aligning information about execution quality (cause) and customer impressions (effect), customer experience managers can build a more effective and appropriate approach to planned interactions.
For additional perspectives on research techniques to monitor the customer experience in the stabilizing phase of the relationship, see the post: Onboarding Research: Research Techniques to Track Effectiveness of Stabilizing New Customer Relationships.
For additional perspectives on a research methodology to investigate “Critical” experiences, see the post: Critical Incident Technique: A Tool to Identify and Prepare for Your Moments of Truth.
For additional perspectives on research methodologies to investigate “Planned” experiences through out the customer life cycle, see the post: Research Tools to Monitor Planned Interactions Through the Customer Life Cycle.
There is no such thing as customer loyalty. Loyalty…true loyalty… loyalty through thick and thin – requires an irrational customer, one who will stay with the bank regardless of the bank’s performance.
Every time a customer interacts with their bank, they may learn something as a result of the experience, and adjust their behavior as a result of what they learn. What we perceive as loyalty is an illusion, rather it is actually the product of an ongoing calculation each customer makes conscious or subconsciously to either initiate or maintain a relationship with a bank. This is the customer value equation.
The customer value equation is simply the sum of the benefits of banking with a given institution minus the sum of the costs of choosing another provider. If this sum is positive, the customer will act as if they are loyal. If this sum is negative, the customer will behave as if they are disloyal.
The first term in this equation contains all the possible benefits associated with the bank. These include the obvious, such as convenience of location or hours, rates and fees, breadth of delivery channels, and customer service. However, they also include less obvious intangible benefits, such as doing business with a local community bank, or the prestige of one financial service provider over the other.
The second term contains the sum of all the costs associated with the banking relationship. Again, the obvious are rates and fees. However, there may be other acquisition costs, such as, the effort of switching providers, as well as intangible costs such as potential risk of switching financial providers. These intangible costs are significant, and play a significant role in what we perceive as customer loyalty, where customers remain with a financial institution more out of inertia, than other reasons.
A common objection to the customer value equation as a model of customer decision making is that it assumes that all customer decisions are completely rational, something that flies in the face of modern research using fMRI machines to probe the biological underpinning of decision makings. This research strongly suggests that many decisions are neither conscious nor rational. However, the customer value equation model allows for this equation to be subconscious and the intangible terms on both the cost and benefit side of the equation allow for irrational benefits and costs to be inserted into the customer’s decision making.
The proposition that customers are not loyal, and that behaviors we use to describe loyalty are really the result of an ongoing calculation of benefits and costs at first may seem daunting, but embracing the proposition that customers adjust their behavior based on what they perceive about a provider, gives managers a valuable model to think about customer loyalty in ways that mirror customer decision making. Understanding the customer value equation gives bank managers a rational framework to make investments in product, positioning, price and place to best match their offering with their customers’ value equations.
How might banks use the concept of the customer value equation to manage the customer experience?
Every time a company and a customer interact, the customer learns something about the company, and adjusts their behavior based on what they learn.
To explore this proposition, Kinesis conducted a survey of 500 consumers asking them to recall an experience with any provider that they found to be particularly positive or negative, and determined how these customer experiences influenced customer behavior.
Here is how respondents told us they changed their behavior based on the experience:
This post specifically addresses positive word of mouth as a result of the experience.
Respondents shared positive word of mouth a median 4.3 times as a result of their positive experience, compared to negative experiences, which were shared about 20% more often (median 5.2 times). In fact, they were more likely to share negative word of mouth across all mediums:
Word of Mouth as Result of Experience
|Friend or family (Excluding Online or Social Media)||
|Coworkers (Excluding Online or Social Media)||
|Online Social Media||
Customers are far more likely to share negative experience using online mediums. While they are about 1.2 times more likely to share a negative experience with a relative, friend or coworker via an off line medium, they are 1.7 times more likely to share negative experiences over positive via online mediums.
Again, every time a company and a customer interact, the customer learns something about the company, and changes their behavior based on what they learn. And, as this study shows, they certainly will share this experience with others. But what about the recipients of this word of mouth advertizing? How does one customer’s experience influence the behavior of others?
Approximately 90% of respondents said their purchase decisions were influenced positively (93%) or negatively (85%) by social media or word of mouth reviews.
With customer trust at an all time low, and social media providing a much more far reaching medium of person to person communication, positive word of mouth is becoming far more important in terms of defining the brand. Increasingly social media is becoming the media. With 9 out of 10 potential customers saying their purchase decisions are influenced reviews of others, it is increasing important that managers manage their customer experience to support and reinforce the brand.