What do potential members want as a result of a visit to your branch? Or, perhaps more importantly, what drives potential members to want to open an account as a result of a visit to your branch?
To answer these questions, Kinesis conducted research into the efficacy of the branch sales process and identified several service and sales attributes that drive member purchase intent. In our observational research of 100 credit union new account presentations, mystery shoppers were asked to describe what impressed them positively as a result of the visit to the credit union. Excluding the branch atmosphere, the five most common themes contained in these open-ended comments were:
- Interest in Helping/ Personalized Service/ Attention to Needs,
- Professional/ Courteous/ Not Pushy,
- Friendly Employees, and
- Product Knowledge of/ Confidence in the Representative
To understand the relative importance of these behaviors with respect to purchase intent, shoppers were asked to rate their purchase intent as a result of the presentation. Kinesis used this rating to group these shops into two groups (those with positive and negative purchase intent) and compared the results of these two groups to each other. Of these positive impressions, three have strong relationships to purchase intent. They are present with greater frequency in shops with positive purchase intent compared to those with negative purchase intent.
Reason for Positive Purchase Intent
|Relative Frequency Positive to Negative Purchase Intent|
|Product Knowledge of/ Confidence in the Representative||2.7|
|Interest in Helping/ Personalized Service/ Attention to Needs||2.5|
The representative’s product knowledge was cited 2.7 times more frequently in shops with positive purchase intent compared to shops with negative purchase intent. Similarly, attention to needs and personalized service was present 2.5 times more frequently in shops with positive purchase intent compared to those with negative purchase intent. Finally, shoppers were 2.3 times more likely to cite the friendliness of branch personnel in shops with positive purchase intent relative to negative.
Member experiences which focus on personal attention, interest in helping, personalized service, professional, courteous and friendly encounters drive purchase intent as a result of a visit to a credit union.
Best in class mystery shop programs provide managers a means of applying coaching, training, incentives, and other motivational tools directly on the sales and service behaviors that matter most in terms of driving the desired customer experience outcome. One tool to identify which sales and service behaviors are most important is Key Driver Analysis.
Key Driver Analysis determines the relationship between specific behaviors and a desired outcome. For most brands and industries, the desired outcomes are purchase intent or return intent (customer loyalty). This analytical tool helps mangers identify and reinforce sales and service behaviors which drive sales or loyalty – behaviors that matter.
As with all research, it is a best practice to anticipate the analysis when designing a mystery shop program. In anticipating the analytical needs of Key Driver Analysis identify what specific desired outcome you want from the customer as a result of the experience.
- Do you want the customer to purchase something?
- Do you want them return for another purchase?
The answer to these questions will anticipate the analysis and build in mechanisms for Key Driver Analysis to identify which behaviors are more important in driving this desired outcome – which behaviors matter most.
Next, ask shoppers if they had been an actual customer, how the experience influenced their return intent. Group shops by positive and negative return intent to identify how mystery shops with positive return intent differ from those with negative. This yields a ranking of the importance of each behavior by the strength of its relationship to return intent.
Additionally, pair the return intent rating with a follow-up question asking, why the shopper rated their return intent as they did. The responses to this question should be grouped and classified into similar themes, and grouped by the return intent rating described above. The result of this analysis produces a qualitative determination of what sales and service practices drive return intent.
Finally, Key Driver Analysis produces a means to identify which behaviors have the highest potential for return on investment in terms of driving return intent. This is achieved by comparing the importance of each behavior (as defined above) and its performance (the frequency in which it is observed). Mapping this comparison in a quadrant chart, provides a means for identifying behaviors with relatively high importance and low performance – behaviors which will yield the highest potential for return on investment in terms of driving return intent.
Behaviors with the highest potential for return on investment can then be inserted into a feedback loop into the mystery shop scoring methodology by informing decisions with respect to weighting specific mystery shop questions, assigning more weight to behaviors with the highest potential for return on investment.
Employing Key Driver Analysis gives managers a means of focusing training, coaching, incentives, and other motivational tools directly on the sales and service behaviors that will produce the largest return on investment. See the attached post for further discussion of mystery shop scoring.
Though it does not pre-assign seats or provide onboard meals and at times has a lengthy wait and check in process, consumers year in and year out rank Southwest Airlines at the top or near the top of customer service.
Why is Southwest consistently near the top?
There are many reasons. The most significant being alignment of customer experience to both their brand and customer expectations; however, I believe a key component of Southwest success in customer service is the emotional intelligence of their employees.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is defined by four personality characteristics:
- A strong sense of self-empowerment and self regulation;
- A positive outlook;
- An awareness of feelings (both their own and customers); and
- A master of fear and anxiety and the ability to tap into selfless motives.
Each of these characteristics provide a clear benefit to the customer experience:
|Personality Characteristic||Benefit to the Customer Experience|
|Self-Empowerment and Regulation||Make Decisions in the Moment
|Constructive Responses to Challenges|
|Awareness of Feelings||Empathy and Better Communication with Customers
|Master of Fear/Anxiety and Selfless Motives||Express Feelings of Empathy and Caring|
Leading customer experience brands position the employee to constructively respond to challenges, make decisions in the moment, empathize with customers, and perhaps most important, not only feel but express feeling of care, concern and empathy to customers.
Much of the benefit of emotional intelligence is derived in “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.
How do we build emotional intelligence?
First of all, emotional bonding cannot be scripted. Attempting to script such a connection will inevitably come off as hollow and insincere lacking authenticity and empathy, completely undermining the desired customer experience. Rather, emotional bonding must be a result of a spontaneous series of events that emerge from the emotional intelligence of employees.
The obvious starting point in building emotional intelligence is hiring frontline employees with the requisite emotional intelligence skills. Emotional intelligence can also be learned. However, it is a “soft” skill, unlike “hard” skills such as math; it can’t be taught in structured sessions. Rather, emotional intelligence is learned like almost all other human behaviors primarily though observation, experience and imitation.
Four Steps to Build Emotional Intelligence
Give people meaning in their work: Inspire frontline employees with a purpose beyond a paycheck. This clarity of purpose should include both what they are supposed to do and why they are supposed to do it.
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 principals often so in the instant, 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.
Most frontline employees want to help customers; however, their motivations may be varied. Leading customer experience brands allow their employees to discover their own motivations for looking out for the customer’s best interests.
Create learning opportunities through experience: Humans are programmed to learn through self-discovery. Self-discovery reinforces the learning process by instilling a sense of accomplishment or pride. These positive feelings associated with self-discovery are a strong psychological reward, which reinforces the learning process. While self-discovery is not a top-down process, managers can foster self-discovery through feedback, encouraging employees to reflect on their own successes and failures, and anecdotes about other employees. Case studies are not just for MBA students.
Align customer experience systems and processes: It is imperative that systems and processes support the emotional skills desired from employees. Systems and process must constantly reinforce the overall message of emotional intelligence and emotionally connecting with customers. In empowering employees to respond to moments of truth, management must strike a balance between financial considerations and the things that matter to the customer. Good customer experiences are not good because they are good; they are good because they are profitable; however, there is no benefit to being penny wise and pound foolish. Finally, processes need to be streamlined to give employees both the time and ability to rise to the situation.
Enlist leaders and mentors: Emotions are learned through modeling. Children don’t learn to react to certain stimuli just because a parent tells them what to feel. We learn how to react to certain situations through trial and error and observing role models. First, it is imperative that all managers and leadership model appropriate emotional skills. How can you expect emotional intelligence from the frontline if it doesn’t exist in leadership? Second, identify employees with the appropriate emotional skills and position them as role models within the organization.
Key to success of any customer facing brand is alignment of the customer experience to both the brand promise and customer expectations. Most of time, this is not difficult. Appropriate systems procedures and even automated delivery channels can achieve this end. However, in moments of truth, where there is a high degree of risk associated with the outcome of the experience, leading customer experience brands rely on an emotionally intelligent frontline staff to align the experience and bond the customer to the brand.
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.
What if I told you that after all your efforts with marketing (product, positioning and price), there is a one-in-ten chance the branch representatives will undermine the sale?
Now more than ever, it is critical for banks to establish themselves as the primary provider of financial services, not only for deposit accounts but across a variety of financial products and services. Increasing the average products per customer will require a strategic approach to both product design and marketing. However, at the end of this strategic marketing process, there is the human element, where prospective customers must interact with bank employees to complete the sales process.
As part of our services to our clients, Kinesis tracks purchase intent as a result of in-branch sales presentations. According to our research, 10% of in-branch sales presentations observed by mystery shoppers, result in negative purchase intent.
What do these 10% failed sales presentations look like?
Here are some quotes describing the experience:
“There was no personal attention. The banker did not seem to care if I was there or not. At the teller line, there was only one teller that seemed to care that there were several people waiting. No one moved with a sense of urgency. There was no communication materials provided.”
Here’s another example…
“It was painfully obvious that the banker was lacking basic knowledge of the accounts.”
“Brian did not give the impression that he wanted my business. He did not stand up and shake my hand when I went over to his desk. He very rarely made eye contact. I felt like he was just going through the motions. He did not ask for my name or address me by my name. He told me about checking account products but failed to inquire about my situation or determine what needs I have or might have in the future. He did not wrap up the recommendation by going over everything nor did he ask for my business. He did not thank me for coming in.”
In contrast, here is what the shops with positive intent look like:
“The appearance of the bank was comfortable and very busy in a good way. The customers were getting tended to and the associates had the customers’ best interests in mind. The response time was amazing and I felt as if the associate was sincere about wanting me as a customer, but he was not pushy or demanding about it.”
Now…after all the effort and expense of a strategic cross-sell strategy, which of the above experiences do you want your customers to encounter?
Would it be acceptable to you as a marketer to at the end of a strategic marketing campaign, have 10% of the sales presentations undermine its success?
These are rhetorical questions.
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:
- Greeting/Stand to Greet/Acknowledge Wait
- Interest in Helping/Offer Assistance
- Discuss Benefits/Solutions
- Promised Services Get Done
- Express Appreciation/Gracious
- Personalized Comment (such as, How are you?)
- Listen Attentively/Undivided Attention
As part of any strategic marketing campaign to both bring in new customers as well as increase wallet share of existing customers, it is incumbent on the institution to install appropriate customer experience training, sales and service monitoring, linked with incentives and rewards structures to motivate sales and service behaviors which drive purchase intent.
Increasingly banks must operate in a multi-channel environment. While the changing role of the branch, combined with automated channels such as online and mobile, are getting a lot of attention, there remains a key role for the contact center in delivering an effective customer experience. Central to this key role is designing an effective customer experience, comprised of the right sales and service behaviors – those which influence customer attitudes and behaviors in a profitable way yielding the most return on investment.
To provide direction with respect to what sales and service behaviors will yield the most return on investment, Kinesis conducted a series of mystery shops to identify which sales and service behaviors have the most influence on purchase intent. In addition to observing specific sales and service behaviors, mystery shoppers were also asked to rate how the call would have influenced their purchase intent if they had been a real customer. This purchase intent rating was then used as means of calculating the strength of the relationship between each behavior and purchase intent.
To determine the relationship between these service attributes and purchase intent, the data for these different studies was cross-tabulated by the purchase intent rating and subjected to significance testing. [i]
When the percentage of calls in which purchase intent significantly increased is tested against the percentage of calls where purchase intent significantly decreased, nearly all the sales and service attributes are statistically significant at or above a 95% confidence level.
|Significantly Increased||Significantly Decreased||Test Statistic|
|Explanations easy to understand||99%||45%||9.0|
|When thanked, respond graciously||98%||42%||8.5|
|Friendly demeanor / pleasant voice||100%||60%||8.4|
|Express appreciation for interest / thank you for business||92%||20%||8.3|
|Ask probing questions||79%||10%||6.4|
|Offer further assistance||85%||25%||6.2|
|Speak clearly and avoid bank jargon||98%||68%||5.8|
|Listen attentively to your needs||80%||25%||5.3|
|Mention other bank product||99%||75%||5.3|
|Invite you to visit branch||64%||10%||4.6|
|Explain the value of banking with bank||57%||5%||4.4|
|Offer to mail material / mention website||66%||20%||4.3|
|Ask your name||68%||25%||3.8|
|Ask for your business / close the sale||57%||21%||2.9|
|If no one available to assist you, offered options||100%||0%||2.2|
The differences between the highest and lowest purchase intent for product knowledge and ease to understanding explanations are the most significant, while a professional greeting is the least significant.
Dividing these behaviors into rough quartiles and comparing them side-by-side, reveals some interesting observations:
Explanations easy to understand
When thanked, respond graciously
Friendly demeanor / pleasant voice
Express appreciation for interest / thank you for business
Ask probing questions
Offer further assistance
Speak clearly and avoid bank jargon
When thanked, employee respond graciously
|Listen attentively to your needs
Mention other bank product
Invite you to visit branch
Explain the value of banking with bank
Offer to mail material / mention website
|Ask your name
Ask for your business / close the sale
If no one available to assist you, offered options
The attributes with the most significant differences between high and low purchase intent ratings appear to be those associated with reliability and empathy. It appears mystery shoppers valued such “core” attributes as product knowledge or interest/enthusiasm for the customer. They seem to be less concerned with more peripheral service attributes, such as asking for names, etc. Influencing purchase intent is not as simple as merely using the customer’s name or answering the phone within a short period of time. Rather it is a much more challenging undertaking of being competent in your job and having the customer’s best interests at heart.
[i] Significance testing determines if any differences observed are the result of actual differences in the populations measured rather than the result of normal variation. Without getting into too much detail, significance testing produces a test statistic to determine the probability that differences observed are statistically significant. A test statistic above 1.96 equates to a 95% confidence level, which means there is a 95% chance any differences observed are the result of actual differences in the populations measured rather than normal variation. For all practical purposes a test statistic over 3.1 means there is 100% chance the differences observed are statistically significant (although in reality the probability never reaches 100%). Finally, in interpreting the following analysis, it is important note that test statistics are not lineal. A test statistic of two is not twice as significant as a test statistic of one. The influence on significance decreases as the test statistic increases. However, the test statistic does give us an opportunity to rank the service attributes by their statistical significance.
“You can expect what you inspect.”
This management philosophy is as true today as it was 50 years ago when W. Edwards Deming used it. Mystery shopping is more than a pure measurement technique conducted properly; it is an excellent motivational tool to motivate appropriate sales and service behaviors across all bank delivery channels.
Unlike the various customer feedback tools designed to inform managers about how customers feel about the bank, mystery shopping focuses on the behavioral side of the equation, answering the question: are our employees exhibiting appropriate sales and service behaviors?
It is the employees who animate the brand, and it is imperative that employee sales and service behaviors be aligned with the brand promise. Actions speak louder than words. Brands spend millions of dollars on external messaging to define an emotional connection with the customer. However, when a customer perceives a disconnect between an employee representing the brand and external messaging, they almost certainly will experience brand ambiguity. The result severely undermines these investments, not only for the customer in question, but their entire social network. In today’s increasingly connected world, one bad experience could be shared hundreds if not thousands of times over. Mystery shopping is an excellent tool to align sales and service behaviors to the brand.
So…what behaviors, channels and employees should be shopped?
Sales channels and sales behaviors offer the most ROI relative to other types of shopping. In terms of prioritizing mystery shopping resources, shops of sales channels and sale behaviors should be the first priority. With the increasing use of universal associates and transforming tellers into sellers, it is incumbent on managers to measure and motivate these higher level sales skills, in both branches and contact centers. After sales behaviors have been prioritized, if resources remain for mystery shopping service scenarios can be included in the mix.
As for the specific measurements, the best practice for mystery shop design is to focus on empirically measureable employee behaviors captured with objective questions. (Was a specific behavior present or not?…Yes or no). The best methodology for deciding which questions to ask is to start with your brand promise, and determine which sales and service behaviors animate the brand. Once you have developed a list of expected behaviors, the next step is to map each behavior to a specific question. Avoid compound questions which ask about two different behaviors, unless you expect both behaviors to be present at the same time, and you are not worried about distinguishing if one is present without the other.
For more information about a process to align behaviors to the brand, click here: “5 Steps to Make Frontline Employees Authentic Representatives of the Brand”
Open-ended questions, either in narrative form or qualitatively asking what shoppers liked or disliked about the experience, add valuable context for understanding the customer experience. Many clients consider these qualitative observations the heart of the shop.
While the core of the mystery shop is objective measurements of specific behaviors, there is a place for subjective impressions. Rating scales are used to capture shopper impressions of various dimensions of the customer experience, as well as the overall experience itself. These subjective ratings provide valuable context for interpreting the customer experience, and specifically the efficacy of the objective behaviors measured. For example, purchase intent ratings calculate a correlation between the objective behaviors measured and purchase intent, identifying which behaviors may be more important in terms of driving purchase intent, and which investments in training, incentives and rewards have the most potential for ROI.
Finally, given mystery shopping measures employee behaviors against bank service standards, it is a best practice to calibrate and align service standards with customer expectations by constantly feeding information uncovered with the customer surveys back into the service standards and mystery shopping. Such an informed feedback loop between customer surveys and mystery shopping will ensure the behaviors measured are aligned with customer expectations.
Call to Action
Research without a call to action may be informative, but not very useful. Call to action elements should be built into research design, which provide a road map for clients to maximize the ROI on customer experience measurement.
For more posts in this series, click on the following links:
- Introduction: Best Practices in Bank Customer Experience Measurement Design
- Customer Surveys: Best Practices in Bank Customer Experience Measurement Design
- Leverage Unrecognized Experts in the Customer Experience: Best Practices in Bank Customer Experience Measurement Design – Employee Surveys
- Filling in the White Spaces: Best Practices in Bank Customer Experience Measurement Design – Social Listening
- A New Look at Comment Cards: Best Practices in Bank Customer Experience Measurement Design – Customer Comments & Feedback
- Customer Experience Measurement Implications of Changing Branch Networks