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Leverage Unrecognized Experts in the Customer Experience: Best Practices in Bank Customer Experience Measurement Design – Employee Surveys

Bank Employee Surveys

Frontline customer facing employees (tellers, platform, and contact center agents) are a vastly underutilized resource in terms of understanding the customer experience.  They spend the majority of their time in the customer-bank interface, and as a result tend to be unrecognized experts in the customer experience.

An excellent tool to both leverage this frontline experience and identify any perceptual gaps between management and the frontline is to survey all levels of the organization to gather impressions of the customer experience.  This survey can be fielded very efficiently with an online survey.

Typically, we start by asking employees to put themselves in the customers’ shoes and to ask how customers would rate their satisfaction with the customer experience, including specific dimensions and attributes of the experience.  A key call-to-action element of these surveys tends to be a question asking employees what they think customers most like or dislike about the service delivery.

Next we focus employees on their own experience, asking the extent to which they believe they have all the tools, training, processes, policies, customer information, coaching, staff levels, empowerment, and support of both their immediate supervisor and senior management to deliver on the company’s service promise.  Call-to-action elements can be designed into this portion of the research by asking what, in their experience, leads to customer frustration or disappointment, and soliciting suggestions for improvement.   Perhaps most interesting, we ask what are some of the strategies the employee uses to make customers happy.   This is an excellent source for identifying best practices and potential coaches.

Finally, comparing results across the organization identifies any perceptual gaps between the frontline and management.  This can be a very illuminating activity.

For more posts in this series, click on the following links:


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Does Your Frontline Understand the Customer Experience Better than the CEO?

Frontline customer facing employees are a vastly underutilized resource in terms of understanding the customer experience. They spend the majority of their time in the company-employee interface, and as a result tend to be unrecognized experts in the customer experience. Conversely, often the further management is removed from the customer interface the less they truly understand some details about what is going on.

One tool to both leverage frontline experience and identify any perceptual gaps between management and the frontline is to survey all levels of the organization to gather impressions of the customer experience.

Typically, we start by asking employees to put themselves in the customers’ shoes and to ask how customers would rate their satisfaction with the customer experience, including specific dimensions and attributes of the experience. A key call-to-action element of these surveys tends to be a question asking employees what they think customers would most like or dislike about the service delivery.

Next we focus employees on their own experience, asking the extent to which they believe they have all the tools, training, processes, policies, customer information, coaching, staff levels, empowerment, and support of both their immediate supervisor and senior management to deliver on the company’s service promise. Call-to-action elements can be designed into this portion of the research by asking what, in their experience, leads to customer frustration or disappointment, and soliciting suggestions for improvement. Perhaps most interesting we ask what are some of the strategies the employee uses to make customers happy – this is an excellent source for identifying best practices and potential coaches.

Finally, comparing results across the organization identifies any perceptual gaps between the frontline and management. This can be a very illuminating activity.

And why not leverage employees as a resource to understanding the customer experience? They spend most of their time in the company-customer interface, and are therefore experts of what is actually going on. Secondly, employees and customers generally want the same things.

Customers want… Employees want…
To get what they are promised The tools/systems/ policies to do their job
Their problems resolved Empowerment to solve problems
Their needs listened to/understood More/better feedback
Knowledgeable employees; adequate information More training; more/better feedback
Employees to take the initiative, take responsibility, represent the company Empowerment; clear priorities; inclusion in the company’s big picture
The company to value their business Clear priorities; the tools/systems/policies to do their job

 


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Not All Service Attributes Are Equal: Retail Bank Transaction Drivers of Loyalty

Research has determined the business attribute with the highest correlation to profitability is customer loyalty.  Customer loyalty lowers sales and acquisition costs per customer by amortizing these costs across a longer lifetime – leading to some extraordinary financial results.  In one study of the retail banking industry, a 5% increase in customer loyalty translated into an 85% increase in profits.[1]

Customer loyalty is driven by the entire relationship with bank.  Image, positioning, products, price and service all mix together in the customer’s’ value equation as customers make a continual decision to remain loyal.

What customer service attributes drive customer loyalty?

This article summarizes research into specific transaction service attributes with the intent of identifying which transaction attributes drive customer loyalty, and provides an analytical tool to help managers determine which attributes will yield the highest potential for ROI in terms of improving customer loyalty.

In order to determine transaction attributes which drive customer loyalty, Kinesis surveyed bank customers who had recently conducted a transaction at a branch.

With respect to the transaction, customers were asked to rate the following service attributes:

  • Professional dress
  • Branch cleanliness
  • Prompt greeting
  • Greeting made customer feel welcome
  • Dependable and accurate
  • Prompt service
  • Willingness to help
  • Job knowledge
  • Interest in helping
  • Best interests in mind
  • Actively listened to needs
  • Ability of bank personnel to help achieve financial needs
  • Desire of bank personnel to help customers achieve financial goals
  • Commitment to community

The next step in the research is to capture a measurement of loyalty against which to compare these attributes.

Measuring customer loyalty in the context of a survey is difficult.   Surveys best measure attitudes and perceptions. Loyalty is a behavior based on rational decisions customers make continually through the lifecycle of their relationship with the bank.  Survey researchers therefore need to find a proxy measurement to determine customer loyalty.  A researcher might measure customer tenure under the assumption that length of relationship predicts loyalty.  However, customer tenure is a poor proxy.  A customer with a long tenure may leave the bank, or a new customer may be very satisfied and highly loyal.

Measuring customer loyalty in the context of a survey is difficult.   Surveys best measure attitudes and perceptions. Loyalty is a behavior based on rational decisions customers make continually through the lifecycle of their relationship with the bank.  Survey researchers therefore need to find a proxy measurement to determine customer loyalty.  A researcher might measure customer tenure under the assumption that length of relationship predicts loyalty.  However, customer tenure is a poor proxy.  A customer with a long tenure may leave the bank, or a new customer may be very satisfied and highly loyal.

Kinesis proposes a model for estimating customer loyalty based on two measurements: likelihood of referral and customer advocacy.  Likelihood of referral captures a measurement of the customer’s likelihood to refer the bank to friend, relative or colleague.  It stands to reason, if one is going to refer others to the bank, they will remain loyal as well.  Because customers who are promoters of the bank are putting their reputational risk on the line, this willingness to put their reputational risk on the line is founded on a feeling of loyalty and trust.  This concept of trust is perhaps more evident in the second measurement,: customer advocacy.  Customer advocacy is captured by measuring agreement with the following statement: “My bank cares about me, not just the bottom line.”  Customers who agree with this statement trust the bank to do right by them, and not subjugate their best interests to profits.  Customers who trust their bank to do the right thing are more likely to remain loyal.

Kinesis uses likelihood of referral, hereafter labeled “Promoter,” and customer advocacy, hereafter labeled “Trust,” to calculate an estimate of the customer’s loyalty.  Imagine a plot where each customer’s Promoter score is plotted along one axis and the Trust score plotted along the other.  Using this plot we can calculate the linear distance between the perfect state of the highest possible Trust and Promoter ratings.  This distance yields a loyalty estimate for each customer, where the lower the value, the higher the estimate of loyalty – low values are good.[i]

Trust Promoter Plot

See Using Promoter and Trust Measurements to Calculate a Customer Loyalty Index for a complete description of this methodology.

Calculating a loyalty index has value, but limited utility.  A loyalty index alone does not give management much direction upon which to take action.  One strategy to increase the actionably of the research is to use this index as a means to identify the service attributes that drive customer loyalty.  Not all service attributes are equal; some play a larger role than others in driving customer loyalty.

So…how does the research determine an attribute’s role or relationship to customer loyalty?  One tool is to capture satisfaction ratings of specific service attributes and determine their correlation to the loyalty statistic.  The Pearson correlation coefficient is a measure of the strength of a linear association between two variables.

Comparing the correlation of the above service attributes to this loyalty estimate yields the following Pearson Correlation for each attribute:

Pearson Coefficient

Want to help me achieve financial goals

-0.69

Commitment to community

-0.66

Ability to help achieve financial goals

-0.64

Best interests in mind

-0.60

Greeting made customer feel welcome

-0.56

Interested in helping

-0.56

Willing to help

-0.55

Prompt service

-0.51

Actively listened to needs

-0.50

Prompt greeting

-0.49

Dependable and accurate

-0.45

Professional dress

-0.42

Knew job Job knowledge

-0.41

Branch attractive

-0.39

Branch clean

-0.37

Note the Pearson values are negative; the loyalty estimate is an inverse, where lower values indicate a stronger estimate of loyalty.  As a result the stronger negative correlation translates into a correlation to our estimate of loyalty.

The four attributes with the highest correlation to loyalty are:

  1. Want to help me achieve financial goals,
  2. Commitment to community,
  3. Ability to help achieve financial goals, and
  4. Having my best interests in mind.

Two common themes in the top-four attributes are empathy and competence.  Bank customers value relationships with banks that care about their needs and have the ability to satisfy those needs.  Again, customer loyalty is driven by the entire relationship with bank.  However, in terms of transactional service, customers clearly value empathy and competency and will reward banks who deliver on these two attributes with loyalty.


[i] The mathematical equation for this distance is as follows:

Loyalty Index Equation

Where:

T = Trust rating

P = Promoter rating

ST = Number of points on the Trust scale

SP = Number of points on the Promoter scale

 


[1] Heskett, Sasser, and Schlesinger The Service Profit Chain, 1997, New York: The Free Press, p 21


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People: The Fifth-P of Marketing

We are all familiar with the Four-P’s of marketing: Product, Price, Promotion and Place – but maybe there is a Fifth-P. Recent research by Kinesis has determined the importance bank representatives play in driving purchase intent. The Fifth-P – it is People.

In the first quarter of 2004, Kinesis conducted a survey of people who had recently visited a bank branch to inquire about a retail banking product or service. The purpose of this research was to determine the key drivers of purchase intent after a branch visit. Six hundred ninety-four people (n=694) were asked to rate how the experience at the branch influenced their intention or purchase a product or service from the bank according to a five-point rating scale anchored at -2 and +2, where -2 was defined as “significantly decreased purchase intent”, +2 was defined as “significantly increased purchase intent” with zero (the mid-point) defined as “had no influence on purchase intent.” Paired with this purchase intent rating, respondents were asked why the experience influenced their purchase intent as it did? The responses to this open-ended question were grouped according to common themes and cross-tabulated according to the purchase intent rating to determine what elements of the branch experience drive purchase intent. The results of this cross-tabulation are presented in the accompanying chart.

Once a prospective customer enters the branch, the platform representative clearly drives purchase intent. Over two-thirds (69%) of the reasons given for positive purchase intent are the result of branch personnel, only one-in-five (18%) were product related, while 8% were due to the branch atmosphere.

The branch personnel driven elements include: generally positive friendly service (26%), product knowledge/informative/confidence in the representative (16%), attentive to needs/ interest in helping/ personalized service (14%), and professional/ respectful/ not pushy employees (10%). Prospective customers want confidence and trust not just in the institution, but also in the people who are the human face of the institution. Product knowledge, attention to personal needs, and a respectful professional sales approach are all very important in establishing the trust necessary to earn the right to play a role in the household’s financial business.

Reasons Behind Purchase Intent

Friendly Employees /General Positive Customer Service

26%

Product Reasons

18%

Rep. Product Knowledge/ Informative /Confidence in Rep.

16%

Attentive to Needs/ Interest in Helping/ Personalized Service

14%

Professional/ Respectful Employees/ Not Pushy

10%

Branch Atmosphere

8%

Felt Valued as a Customer

3%

In a follow-up study, Kinesis wanted to investigate the key drivers of purchase intent as a result of the sales presentation for more complex financial services. Three hundred fourteen people (n=314) who had recently participated in a sales presentation for bank-marketed investment products (annuities, mutual funds, and other securities from Series 6 and Series 7 licensed sales people) were given the same survey. If trust and confidence in the platform personnel is important for retail banking, it is even more important for investment products.

Over nine-out-of-ten (91%) of the respondents mentioned an employee related reason as driving purchase intent, only a handful mentioned product (3%) and branch atmosphere (2%), as drivers of purchase intent. The themes of trust and confidence are even more evident in investment presentations. Interest in helping/attentive to needs (43%), product knowledge/informative/confidence in the representative (28%), and professional/respectful employees (13%) are the top three reasons for positive purchase intent. Furthermore, the strength of these attributes’ influence is striking, 78% of the respondents who mentioned these attributes assigned the highest purchase intent rating (+2). Not only are they mentioned with significant frequency, but the strength of their influence on Purchase Intent is significant as well.

As banks continue to expand their offerings to more sophisticated products, the professionalism and personalization of the sales process is critical to garnering the trust necessary to earn the household’s business. Not only is this due to the sophistication of these products, but also because of their risk profile. Customers understand this increased risk and therefore require even more personalized and professional attention to feel comfortable giving their business to an institution, even if the institution is a bank with all the trust usually associated with bank brands.

Once a prospective client is in the branch, the people in the sales process drive purchase intent. Product, Price, Promotion and Place all play a role in getting prospective clients to the branch, but it is the people involved in the sales process who clearly drive purchase intent from that point on. Perhaps People really doesn’t deserve elevation to the status of Fifth-P. In fact, the people in the sales process is part of the Fourth-P, Place. However, consider this – financial institutions invest heavily in marketing efforts for both core bank products and increasingly more sophisticated products. Yet, all this marketing investment is wasted if it is not supported by the people involved in the sales process. It is these people who connect with prospective customers on a personal level, and as a result, influence the sale and maximize return on marketing investments. That’s worth repeating – the people in the sales process maximize ROI on marketing dollars.


Click Here For More Information About Kinesis' Employee Engagement Research

Click Here For More Information About Kinesis' Employee Engagement Research

Cheer Up: Improve your reps’ job satisfaction to reduce turnover – and raise sales

Author: Julia Chang, Staff Writer, Sales & Marketing Magazine
Reprinted from the Sales & Marketing Magazine
June, 2004

Cheer Up: Improve your reps’ job satisfaction to reduce turnover – and raise sales

When the economy soured and the number of sales jobs shrunk, managers had little incentive to improve job satisfaction. But with the market getting stronger, managers could find themselves dealing with flight risks: According to a recent survey by job site CareerBuilder.com, four in 10 sales professionals plan to look for better jobs in 2004.

Internal unrest can lead to low morale, and smart managers will work to mitigate discontent.

“You’ve got to catch dissatisfaction quickly,” says Jim Campbell, president of Performance Unlimited, a sales coaching and training firm based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “Even if you have one person who’s unhappy, it spreads. It’s the whole rotten-apple-spoils-the-barrel thing.”

Campbell recalls one recent client who suffered from a bad case of employee dissatisfaction. The client, a bank, was having problems with its 11-member internal sales and service department, whose job it was to train branch tellers and loan officers to sell new services. The department had recently expanded, but there was no unity among new and veteran members; a few even made it clear they were looking for new jobs. The bank’s performance was going south, and the manager was told he had to turn it around it around in six months – or lose his job.

Through team-building training, Campbell focused on topics like communication skills, creating a well-functioning team, and the effect of attitude on performance. Additionally, he held follow-up sessions for several weeks afterward to see how these new skills were being executed. He also individually coached the manager on his motivational and performance management skills. Team unity improved, and even those most vocal about their unhappiness stayed on. “They actually wanted to be part of the team, they just didn’t know how,” Campbell says, “They finally saw they could accomplish more in a team than as individuals.”

Happy employees yield more business. Campbell’s client saw the number of new loans and additional services sold increase following training, because employees were more enthusiastic in their training of branch workers. “In doing interviews with clients, we definitely see a link between customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction,” says Eric Larse, Managing Member of Kinesis, a market research firm based in Seattle, that specializes in the customer experience. But, he says, an employee satisfaction culture has to start at the top. “It’s a strategic issue that rests at the highest levels of the organization.”


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