It’s all about the Customer Experience

I believe that “Customer Service” is a term that is used far too loosely in today’s business environment, because “Customer Service” is nothing if you can’t deliver the experience that is required to go with it.

Modern day technology will only get you so far, as there still needs to be a certain element of human interaction and how that interaction is handled is what businesses are judged on.

For quite a long time now banks have held number one position for poor customer service. And as I have said many times in the past, my take on banks is that they will lend you an umbrella when the sun shines, and want it back when it rains. Now whilst we have seen quite a lot of positive marketing in recent times showing how banks are now more caring and accommodating than they’ve ever been before, there is still a massive element of arrogance that needs to be addressed internally before they can get rid of that perception once and for all.

My parents have been loyal Commonwealth Bank customers for over 30 years, and just last week dad realised that he had been getting charged for a safety deposit box that he wasn’t even aware he had. My dad is 81 and we lost my mum just before Christmas, which left dad in a bit of a bind, as mum always took care of the home finances and kept everything under control. So wanting to get this sorted, he asked my sister to go to the bank (with his authority) and find out what was in this safety deposit box, as mum had never mentioned it to him. It turns out that the reason mum had never mentioned anything to dad was that there is no safety deposit box and the bank has been charging for it since 2003.

My sister spent a good 45 mins trying to get to the bottom of it and being passed on to 3 different people, where she was told that the bank was only going to refund the fees for last 3 years as it was my parents responsibility to check their statements. My sister politely tried to explain that regardless of whether mum checked the statements or not, the bank had been taking money for a service that was not even asked for and they should refund the entire 11 years of fees. One could argue that yes my parents should have checked their statements and knowing how meticulous mum was, she did check but for whatever reason she would not have understood what the fees were for and she may not have wanted to ask anyone, regardless of the reason why, we are talking a refund of a few hundred dollars, but what happens next is absolutely appalling.

My sister waited patiently when another bank representative came out and told her that the decision was final, “we are only going to refund 3 years as we have wasted enough time on this” and just turned around and walked away. My sister then went up to the “customer service” counter and asked if she could speak to the manager, and was shocked when the response was “that was the manager”. This is what banks call “customer service”.

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia posted a $7.67bn profit for 2013 and I have absolutely no problem with any organisation making profit, but I have a huge issue when the level of service delivered doesn’t match the respect for someone who has been a loyal customer for over 30 years, because without the loyal customers there will be no profits. What this particular branch manager failed to realise was that her comment, “we have wasted enough time on this” wasn’t just made to my sister, it was made to an entire family, where 3 other members also bank with CBA one of them being me, who also happens to deliver Customer Excellence trainings to audiences across the globe and will now use this as an example of what NOT to do in business if you want to become successful, and will share it in all my trainings everywhere I speak, ALL OVER THE WORLD.

In all my years in business, the single most important factor that made me successful was the ability to deliver an outstanding customer experience. Now I understand that the Commonwealth Bank of Australia is a large organisation with thousands of employees, but guess what, Apple is a much larger organisation with far more employees and you would never get that response from someone at Apple, that is for sure and certain. And the single biggest reason is culture, and Apple spends a huge amount of money each year on training their staff to ensure that culture never fails them.

What CBA has failed to realise is that the negative impact this manager can have in this one particular branch and how her actions can quickly flow through the entire team will see them lose more and more customers over time.

So you can clearly see how one person’s actions can have an enormous effect on an entire organisation and it can be easily fixed with the correct training.

So my question is, if Apple can do it, why can’t every business achieve that same level of Customer Experience? It has nothing to do with how big you are or how much money you have, it all comes down to leadership and how well you can lead a team to deliver the customer experience that is expected by your customers.