During the Christmas break, I treated my ever-expanding family to a few days at a truly top-notch
hotel location in Scotland. (If you have never spent a Christmas in Scotland you do not know what
you are missing!) It was there that I experienced two examples of exceptional customer service.
In the first instance, I witnessed a member of staff go to enormous lengths to help my son with
binding for a University assignment. But not content with achieving that, the same person also took
it upon themselves to source a beautiful folder that my son would be able to present his work in.
Exceptionally good customer service.
In the second, my daughter and I failed to receive any service from coffee shop staff despite having
an order taken on three different occasions. Then when we approached the counter to enquire why,
we watched in horror as the café manager gave colleagues a verbal lashing for their service
oversight. Exceptionally poor customer service.
So, one organisation, one building, producing a barbell customer service experience.
It set me thinking why so many organisations, regardless of their brand, seem utterly unable to
deliver customers a consistent service experience? It also prompted me to consider whether there
are lessons that might be applied in the financial sector.
Could the problem be the issue of the brand itself or rather our devotion to its supposed power? In
the above example the brand has a very strong identity; an immediately recognisable name in an
idyllic location with a level of resource that would be the envy of any competitor. In addition, it
contains highly trained employees who identify the brand. Yet, as we have seen, the nature of the
client experience they deliver can vary enormously.
The read across for us in the financial services industry, is the belief that the brand can never be
wrong. Therefore, there is no need to devote valuable resources and time to asking clients for their
opinions when we know we are doing a good job on their behalf. So, any negative feedback that
might emerge from standard in-house generated customer surveys should be viewed as an
exception, an aberration.
But as the above hotel-based examples indicate, it is the negative customer experience that has the
greater impact on the perception of an organisation. This becomes even more problematic, when
the organisation assumes it knows what the client experience has been so doesn’t try hard to probe
for insights that might help it learn about itself.
So, what then does ultimate customer satisfaction in the financial services industry look like? It’s
that shiny cup, the Holy Grail that we are oftentimes convinced we are close to achieving. But unless
we are truly willing to ask clients how we are doing, listen to the feedback they provide and
implement any necessary behavioural changes implied, we will not realise the potential of the
brands we are justifiably proud to represent.