When Bank Tellers Fail The Customer Service Test

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When Bank Tellers Fail The Customer Service Test

A recent report projected that bank tellers have a 98% chance of being replaced by automation. Based on my most recent experience, I agree.

What started as a simple banking transaction ended with me writing this article.

It’s actually refreshing to walk into the bank occasionally (instead of using the drive-through or online banking) and be greeted by name and a smile. Many tellers pass the basic customer service test of friendly and courteous with flying colors. If only these were the only two factors required to achieve an A+ rating on customer satisfaction.

Unfortunately rudimentary customer service skills aren’t enough anymore.  Many face-to-face experiences with bank tellers (as well as many other customer service workers) are just not productive, a good use of time, or pleasant, no matter how many smiles or personal salutations you get. The ultimate test of customer service today is can the employee deliver an exceptional customer experience and many organizations are failing miserably.

While processing my deposit transaction, the teller shared “we’re offering a credit card promotion today. Can I tell you about it?” Just an hour before I opened a promotional letter and the offer was intriguing, so I nodded yes and then ….

I asked her: Is it the same one that I received in the mail?

She responded: it should be.

Me: It was a business credit card, not personal. I only want it if it’s for business.

Teller: It should be the same.

Me: Should I just fill it out online?

Teller: It will only take a minute here.

Me: Will I receive the same promotional rate?

Teller: You should.

That “should” is a real problem. The first time she said “it should” I blew it off. But “will I receive the same promotional rate” is a simple question that requires a yes or no response, particularly since it’s the only reason I might be interested.

The teller thought nothing of the ambiguity and handed me an application.

Me: This doesn’t ask anything about my business.

Teller: Let me check.

After fumbling around on the computer for a minute or so, the supervisor came over. She fumbled too. The branch manager then popped out her office.

Manager: He’ll need to fill out a business application. I just printed it out.

The Teller reached over and picked up the application off the printer. She stapled the papers and slid it over to me. Four different types of credit cards were listed on the top.

Me: Which one is the card offer I received in the mail?

The teller looks at the options like she was reading a note from a gunman that just entered the building! Again she turned to her computer screen and started searching. She started to read me the descriptions of each card from the screen – word for word. She was really trying hard to help but I just had to interrupt. What started out as a simple deposit transaction was turning into a 15 minute appointment for a product I wasn’t sure I wanted. I repeated the question.

Me: Which one is the card offer I received in the mail?

The teller looked at me, recognized my frustration, and looked around for help.  The supervisor rushed over to bail her out.

Supervisor: Yes, you’ll receive the promotional rate of 0% interest for 6 months.

Me: But the offer in the mail included 0% for 18 months.

Supervisor: You should get that.

Problem #2: Here we go again. Even the supervisor is telling me “should” instead of a definitive yes or no answer. If there is one thing you want from your bank is to trust that the information they give you is accurate. “Should” does not instill trust.

The manager popped out of her office again.

Manager: Before we submit the application we’ll confirm that you will receive the same promotion.

At that point, I decided to pass on the offer…or at least I decided that completing the application in the bank wasn’t worth the time.

When I returned to my office I tried an experiment. I went online to complete the application using the offer I received in the mail. It took me less than 5 minutes. And that included a live chat with a representative who answered a question I had asked the teller and supervisor…but that they couldn’t answer.

My annoying and frustrating customer service experience is not isolated to this branch, one company, or the banking industry. It is rampant in hospitality. It is endemic in health care, call centers, and nearly every service industry. Many of the functions that workers do today require little skill and are process oriented.  When customer service workers aren’t trained and knowledgeable, it’s better for the business and the customer to automate! Since it is estimated that as much as 60% of all the work bank tellers do is automatable, these jobs will be eliminated.

It’s simple. Friendly, courteous, and a positive attitude are no longer the only requirements to deliver good customer service.  The days are long gone when a manager could hire someone to “smile, greet, and don’t do anything stupid” and that was enough to deliver good customer service.

Today the expectation is exceptional customer experience. It’s a skill that many people don’t have. Not only do customers expect to be treated like guests but the customer service representatives – in this case bank tellers – need to be knowledgeable and problem solvers.  If customers can get more accurate information and a faster solution more conveniently online, bank tellers days are numbered.

The morale of the story is this. If you are a business that employs customer service workers you must do two things: ensure good customer service job fit and make sure they have the knowledge to support and sell your products and services.

Are you looking to hire more bank tellers (or customer service representatives or restaurant servers or health care workers) who can deliver an exceptional customer experience, fill out the form below or call us at 800-803-4303.

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Request for Information about Banking Employee Tests

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