When customer service really counts

05 January, 2023Paul Stallard

Paul Stallard explains why more bank customers are going to ask their institution for help and what makes for excellent customer service in financial services.

Bank customers could be forgiven for thinking that banks have put all customer service online.  It’s certainly easier to carry out everyday tasks, like transferring money, via a website. But there is another side to ‘customer service’. This is when customers want – or need – a person in their bank to take an active role in helping them understand their finances and manage financial problems.

When interest rates go up and inflation is spiralling, many start to worry about their finances.  People become stressed, embarrassed, sometimes even ill, and want to speak, often privately, to someone at their bank who can help.

Demand for help from banks will rise

So, though digital do channels play a crucial part in helping customers with their problems – think chatbots – banks are going to face a clamour of requests to sort out problems on a one-to-one basis as the cost-of-living crisis bites.

Bank customers don’t always feel that banks care about customer service. They still see most branches open when they’re at work and closed when they’re not. They see frequent reports of banks losing customer data, and of complete IT shutdowns that prevent customers getting at their money. All in all, they may go into their bank to get help only as a last resort.

Brush-up on your soft-skills

The most important thing to remember when dealing with customers – whether in-person, over the phone or online, whether they’re a new customer or not – is they must be treated with respect.

When building a truly respectful partnership with customers there are some golden rules:

  • Staff need to be calm and patient. These problems will not last forever, we need to navigate our way through it.
  • Do all that is humanly possible to be available when customers need you.
  • Listen to them intently and be clearly interested in what they have to say.
  • Expect their participation – they have to do what they agree to.
  • Let them see you joining in or sharing the challenge to find a solution.
  • The ultimate solution may well be a journey of small steps.

Always remember – customers generally forget and forgive what banks do wrong but they will never forget how banks make them feel.

You are your voice

All situations call for a calm, quiet, confident, and respectful tone of voice. Even the slightest critical edge can end the customer’s co-operation. If the customer speaks harshly, stay cool and remember they are probably scared out of their wits by their financial worries.

How do you know if you’re customer focused?

To be truly customer-focused you need to stop and ask yourself: “How does what I’m doing help a customer and how can I make what I’m doing better?” Each time you do some small thing to help, it won’t make that much difference in the great scheme of things. However, if everyone in the business put the customer first, all the time, it would make a huge difference and you would work for a champion brand.

What sort of small things count? How quickly do you and your colleagues answer the telephone? What about responding to emails or dealing with someone who has come into the office or is standing close by clearly seeking attention?

Immediately attending to the customer, tells them that their need is the most important thing to you at that time. It does not necessarily matter whether your effort is noticed or appreciated. What matters is that the customer knows they come first.

It is all in the detail

Customer focused people actively listen to what customers say, look them in the eye and take in details. They almost obsess about understanding the customer’s needs, likes, dislikes, worries, objectives, feelings, and their thinking and decision-making process. Very often they pick up on unspoken information that can be used to help the bank support that customer.

The bottom line is: when customers are facing economic difficulties, they are likely to need the help of their bank.

Dealing with those problems can be challenging for bank staff. But now is the time when banks with excellent customer service can make a difference.

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