Over the past several months, I've had the opportunity to speak with several leaders in the consumer credit and collections industry. In addition, I've scoured the 2021 TransUnion Consumer Credit Fore...
As we all know, providing exceptional customer service is key to running a successful company, but is your financial institution doing everything it can to ensure your valued customers are getting the type of service they want and need?
In this blog post, we’ll explore the top five customer service mistakes that could be negatively affecting your account holders’ experience, and give you specific action items for improving your financial institution’s communication strategy.
1. Not Saying You’re Sorry
Saying you’re sorry in a way that makes it obvious you aren’t is just as bad as not saying it at all. If you choose not to acknowledge errors and make a habit of sweeping mistakes under the rug, you'll lose customers time and time again.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if a mistake is made, you need to take the time to admit it. While it doesn't feel great to come clean and admit you're not perfect, your account holders will appreciate it and find value in your honesty and transparency. People are more willing to come back and use your services again if you take accountability for things that go wrong.
However, you can't just say you're sorry—you have to mean it.
ACTION ITEM: Train employees on sympathy versus empathy; this can help teach your staff how to apologize appropriately and the importance of it.
Related Reading: Transacting vs. Conversing: The Value of Authentic Communication in Collections
2. Not Respecting Your Borrowers’ Time
Being late, misleading about timetables, or being insensitive to the timing issues and pacing preferences of your account holders can derail their service experience. Remember: a perfect product, delivered late, is defective.
Your word is all you have, so if you announce to your account holders that a new enhanced mobile banking site will launch on March 1, then March 2 is an unacceptable delivery date. Don't tell borrowers they will receive a refund within 10 days unless you're absolutely sure that's what will happen. You may think these things are "small potatoes," but to your account holders, these are signs that you're not reliable.
Your borrowers will remember that you didn't follow through and live up to your word. If they can't depend on you to meet deadlines you set for yourself, it may be hard for them to trust you with other things—like, not losing all of their money, or managing their investments wisely, or living up to your loan agreements, for instance.
ACTION ITEM: Set appropriate expectations with your borrowers. As a business partner, it's important to remember to always "under promise and over deliver." This will ensure you're not setting up unrealistic timelines or making promises you can't keep.
3. Not Leading Your Customer Service Employees by Example
You can’t treat your customer service employees poorly and expect them to turn around and treat your account holders like gold. A good leader treats employees like they are actual human beings—with feelings, thoughts, and lives all of their own. They show their employees, peers, and senior managers they value their expertise and the work they do, and they truly lead by example. Effective leaders aren't the type of people who got where they are by breaking down versus building their employees up.
Exemplary leaders also:
Give praise when it's deserved
Give constructive criticism when needed
Empower their employees to develop themselves personally and professionally
Give employees the tools and resources needed to succeed
Create a positive work environment
ACTION ITEM: To make sure you are being the best, most effective boss you can be, consider engaging your HR department to conduct an anonymous performance review by your employees.
4. Writing Your Account Holders Off
Writing off your account holders for one simple mistake is a sure way to burn a bridge. The funny thing is, most financial institutions don't overlook their borrowers’ simple one-time mistakes. In lending, we have to look at the total picture and be aware of past situations/behaviors in order to know whether or not someone is a risk to lend to, but is that one late payment from five years ago really going to be the reason you deny a loan?
Instead of automatically dismissing your account holders’ perspective, try truly listening to their situation to build the trust and rapport that is so essential to any successful relationship. When you talk to your borrower utilize effective interviewing techniques. Ask questions to help validate an accurate reflection of their current situation.
ACTION ITEM: When encountering a financially burdened borrower, strive to work with them to create a win-win solution for both parties. Communicate to your borrowers that your goal is to find a mutually beneficial solution.
Related Reading: Working with Account Holders Hit Hard By Financial Hardship
5. Not Communicating on Your Account Holders’ Preferred Channel
As technology creates more contact options between you and your account holders, it’s important to keep pace with your borrowers’ preferences. Phone calls, emails, and text messages are all expected options for communication.
Consistency and redundancy across multiple channels is an important part of a broad communication strategy, as some borrowers will prefer one method while others may require multiple contact methods to gain top-of-mind awareness. Having regular communication touch points using multiple channels can help borrowers make a substantial difference in their customer experience.
ACTION ITEM: Adopt and incorporate omnichannel communication into your service experience. Set up infrastructure to effectively communicate with your borrowers via text, email, and interactive voice response (IVR).
As the Account Vice President for SWBC’s Financial Institution Group, Brad Eral services financial institutions throughout the Midwest within lending services, insurance, and loss mitigation programs. Prior to joining SWBC, Brad worked in the software space helping retailers leverage technology to improve their customer experience.