In today’s hyper-paced world, expectations for fast, convenient results have changed the way we look at daily activities like shopping, meal planning or even catching a ride across town. In an effort to stay current with the times, many service providers have invested heavily in the latest technology to create unique experiences. But are consumers getting any better service?
According to a survey by PwC, nearly 80% of American consumers identified speed, convenience, knowledgeable help and friendly service as the most important elements of a positive customer experience. Yet, many often feel the human element is lacking in the services they receive. Only 38% of U.S. consumers say the employees they interact with understand their needs.
When it comes to acquiring financial services, a recent study by J.D. Power found that 78% of U.S. retail bank customers are interested or very interested in receiving financial advice or guidance from their bank — including one in three respondents under age 40. Help with improving their financial situation was at the top of the list for 41%. 33% wanted guidance on how to keep track of spending and household budgets. However, only 28% of respondents recall receiving any type of financial advice in recent memory.
Exceptional service begins with making a connection
Your account service personnel have a tremendous opportunity to initiate long-term relationships by understanding your members’ most pressing financial needs and presenting your institution’s solutions in a confident, caring and consistent manner.
For example: A fully disclosed overdraft program is an effective solution for helping members maintain control of their finances and take care of emergency needs when they are short of funds. For best results in creating a positive member outcome, a program should:
- Put member needs first
Product decisions should be based on members’ best interests, not institutional or personal biases. An overdraft solution carries different benefits for different users. Some members may utilize your program as a lifeline when they experience a short fall, others may value the convenience of having their transactions covered if they make an error in their checkbook or want to avoid having a debit card purchase or ATM withdrawal rejected.
Don’t assume that an overdraft solution is only targeted to low income members. Many upper and middle-class consumers could benefit from a financial safety net from time to time, but they may be too proud or embarrassed to ask an account service representative about it.
When First Community Credit Union in Wisconsin initially offered an overdraft solution, some employees didn’t believe in the program’s value and had a tendency not to offer it to members. First Community President Jack Gill credits their program’s focus on full disclosure for dampening these negative feelings and creating more of a neutral situation. “Just as with any other product or service, it’s our job to disclose what it is, tell members how to use it and make sure they know what it costs. Then they can make an informed decision about whether or not it is right for their situation,” he said.
Gill believes that a disclosed overdraft program provides a kind of insurance policy for members when they make a mistake in their checkbook. “People are likely going to use an overdraft service, so why not bring them in and at least give them a better deal on it. If they don’t use it, they won’t ever be charged. But if they do need it, it’s there. Used correctly, it makes your job and your members’ lives a lot easier,” he added.
- Make employee training a priority
Are you depending on internal staff to train new personnel? Do you cross-train all employees to make sure everyone can explain how your overdraft program works in the event they are asked about the service or run across a member who could benefit from having an overdraft limit?
When staff members are tasked with multiple responsibilities and turnover makes it difficult to keep experienced, informed employees on the front line, it can be challenging to keep everyone up-to-speed on new regulations and best practices. But from a member service standpoint, a knowledgeable, confident staff can be a competitive advantage. What’s more, keeping staff up-to-date increases their confidence and, in turn, improves employee morale.
A professional review of your existing training regimen can uncover potential knowledge gaps and correct personal biases that you didn’t know existed, or you thought were too insignificant to address. Then, compliance-tested training — that includes opportunities for employees to role-play potential situations and conversations — can reinforce important aspects of your program for everyone who engages with members.
This can be especially eye opening if you don’t currently have an overdraft solution. When the management of Catholic and Community Credit Union in Illinois implemented its overdraft program, leadership realized that some employees considered the idea of bouncing checks to be a bad thing, according to Jim Pickus, chief financial officer.
Following comprehensive on-site training by compliance and program management experts, Pickus saw an institution-wide shift in philosophy regarding overdrafts. “Everyone was supportive of handling overdrafts differently and, most importantly, employees no longer believed that members who occasionally bounced a check were ‘bad’ people,” he said.
Maintaining this level of expertise is the one sure way to demonstrate your unwavering commitment to providing the level of service your members can depend on when it comes to dealing with their financial situation.
- Maintain open lines of communication
With more and more options for completing banking transactions, consumers seem to have all the information they could possibly need — either at their fingertips or with face-to-face interactions at a branch facility. However, keeping their account healthy isn’t the only thing on their minds from day to day; and sometimes the messages they hear lack consistency and clarity.
That’s why it’s so important to provide clear, compliant messaging on how your overdraft program works, how much it costs, how members can use it responsibly, and alternative services you provide that might be more appropriate for members who use the program frequently. And make sure your messages are consistent across all of your communications channels.
Also, provide the contact information of your account service personnel to members who rely on mobile apps and online banking to transact their business. This small gesture will make it easier for them to reach out to an account service representative if they need to get information or seek advice in-person.
Good connections are lasting
According to the J.D. Power study, when consumers are highly satisfied with the advice provided by their financial institution, 91 percent have a higher level of trust. Eighty-nine percent expect to reuse the institution for another product.
A commitment to offer fully compliant, reasonably priced products that your members need — along with ongoing advice on how to maintain financial stability — can strengthen your member relationships and build a stronger institution. And isn’t that what it’s all about?