Move from Good Intentions to Good Service

We interview hundreds of bankers each year to evaluate their account opening interactions. The one thing they all have in common?

They always believe they are providing excellent customer service.

Bankers almost always have great intentions for every customer that walks in the door. That doesn’t mean, however, that they always provide the best service. Here are a few examples of common interactions that underserve both the customer and the financial institution, and how you can address them as an organization before they become a part of your culture.

“The One Size Fits All”

This banker tends to put everyone in the same account regardless of any differentiating factors. Bunch of money to put in? Doesn’t matter. Use your debit card for everything? Who cares. Everyone gets this account.

We often see these interactions in a couple of environments. First, in fee-based account structures with a completely “free” account in the mix, bankers will often gravitate toward the free option. Even though there are no additional benefits with that account, there are also fewer potential problems in the relationship, and the perceived lack of conflict is enticing. Secondly, in environments where the product offering is relatively complicated with many different features and parameters, the banker will often default to the account that requires the least amount of explanation. This could be due to time factors, perceived lack of conflict, lack of product knowledge, or problems with the product set itself.

The first step in these scenarios is always to look at the products. Do the features make sense and allow for a positive interaction? Do the accounts with add-on features provide real benefits for the target market over the basic account? If no, it may be time to re-evaluate the product offering. If yes, it is critical to ensure bankers have a clear process for identifying the target market for each product when those individuals present themselves.

“The Human Brochure”

This banker drops down a brochure and painstakingly goes through the details of every available product. That conversation usually ends with the phrase, “so what would you like to do?”

Bankers that do this tend to have outstanding product knowledge, and they want their customer to have that knowledge as well. But that amount of information is overwhelming to a customer who came in looking for advice, not a detailed description of what’s already on your website. In fact, too many options will usually confuse a customer rather than assist them in making the best decision.

The key to improving these interactions is for bankers to learn more about the customer up front and understand how to effectively match needs to the product set. This banker already knows the features – teach them how to translate them to benefits and only discuss them when they are relevant.

“The Vintage”

This banker gives the same speech about products that they have been giving since they were first offered. Debit Cards? “Well, first you need to know that its different than a credit card…”

These interactions often happen with experienced long-term bankers who don’t always shift their conversation with how consumer mindsets change. They work up a couple good one-liners, and if they worked a few times, why change them, right? The problem is that product discussions should change over time – every year, customers manage their finances a little differently than they did before, and they are looking for something a little different from the banking relationship. Conversations should reflect this changing environment.

To improve these interactions, work on modern messaging around the products. What is important to customers now? Also, consider how these messages change based on the customer’s behavioral characteristics. A customer using mobile banking for the first time needs a different conversation than someone who used it at a previous bank and knows the basics.

“The Spy”

This banker tends to talk about the products like they are on the customer’s team and not the bank’s payroll. “Now, I know that this account has a service charge and I don’t like it either but that’s what the bank did…”

These bankers are the equivalent of a waiter at a restaurant handing you a menu and listing off five items not to order. Sure, you might be thankful in that moment, but it doesn’t inspire confidence in the business or build a long-term relationship. The banker might feel like they are befriending the customer by giving them some “inside info”, but the customer won’t view it that way. The customer is there to receive value from a service, and if the value isn’t worth the cost, they will make that determination on their own. Not to mention, the banker may be introducing “problems” that would have never occurred or have been important to the customer and should have been skipped in the conversation. These negative quips pile up fast and don’t leave a customer with a positive impression.

These interactions are usually an indicator of a larger problem. That problem is more than likely an issue with “fit” between the banker and the institution. Unfortunately, attitude and cultural issues spread quickly and can be tough to fix. The bank may need to ask themselves what type of employee fits the culture they desire, and if this type of interaction isn’t an isolated issue, it may be time to look for talent elsewhere.

“The Cowardly Lion”

This banker skips a lot of questions and good pieces of information because they don’t want to make the customer uncomfortable. “Oh, I would never ask them that so I just write down what I think it is.”

These bankers often feel that service is equal to comfort – asking in-depth questions is just too invasive and will make the customers mad. But these bankers miss out on key pieces of information about the customer that can only be discovered through organic conversation and questioning. Their customers tend to end up in basic products and don’t broaden their relationship with the bank because the interaction never uncovered additional needs or inspired the customer to think deeper than the initial request.

With these bankers, focus on a “if you don’t ask, you’re not doing a good job” message. If they don’t ask and dig, they aren’t providing any consultation to the customer and are therefore doing them a disservice. Also, remind them that the customer is here for advice, and you can’t give advice if you don’t know what you are trying to solve.

Elevating your service culture takes consistent messaging and training at an institutional level. Banker skills are just one piece of the equation - but a critical piece nonetheless. Keep in touch with CC Interactive on our website ( or by contacting Jesse Cain or Hans Christensen for more on enabling bankers to create profitable customer relationships.

Featured Posts
Recent Posts