Challenges in Supporting Customer Scenarios® Across Multiple Touchpoints

Following Up on Fleet’s Focus on Customer Service: Personnel Doing a Fine Job, but Voice Response System in Desperate Need of Enhancement

December 13, 2002

Although FleetBoston is doing a good job educating employees on how to service customers, it hasn’t done a good job of bringing that attention to customer needs to other touchpoints.

In September, I wrote about how FleetBoston’s “Winning Gold” initiative, dedicated to “providing the highest level of service for customers, the best possible work environment for employees, translating into higher stock value for shareholders,” seemed to be making a difference. Friends, colleagues, and I all experienced vastly improved encounters with bank personnel during a variety of scenarios, including closing on a loan and consolidating accounts.

Web Site Needed Improvement

I did point out the necessary improvements in the Web site to match the improvements in personal customer service. But, until recently, I had managed to miss using another touchpoint--one which is in dire need of a complete overhaul--the customer service voice response system.


No Problem in Sales Situations

Recently, I responded to a very attractive offer from FleetBoston for a home equity line of credit. I have long wanted to update my kitchen, and the rate in the offer was not to be beat! I called the number on the offer and was immediately connected with an informed and pleasant customer service rep. He actually couldn’t answer all my questions about the equity line application, but he had someone call me back within the half hour. The application process was quick and easy, and the approval call came within two days.

Because some documentation and signatures were necessary to close the equity line, snail mail delivered (two days later) the proper forms and instructions. This was when I experienced my first--but small--problem. The instructions weren’t particularly clear about what documents I needed, which had to be notarized, etc. The package included two customer service numbers to call--one to answer questions, the other to set up an appointment at my local branch for the signing.

Using the Automated Voice Response System

I decided that, since I was unsure about what I needed to bring to the closing, I would call the question-answering number. After listening to a fairly long menu of options, none of which were exactly what I wanted, I finally chose an option that seemed reasonable. The message I heard went pretty much like this:

“Thank you for calling. Due to high call volumes, all customer representatives are busy right now. Your business is important to us. [So far so good] Please call us back at another time. [WHAT?!]

I was given no option to wait or to try to reach an operator or to transfer to another menu option. Basically, FleetBoston hung up on me!

I immediately called the number for setting up the closing at my local branch. Turns out, even though FleetBoston knew which branch I would be using--it was in the letter--the process is to go through the general contact center and have a customer service rep there call the branch and then pass me onto my local representative. Seems pretty convoluted, no?

Bob, my CSR, saved the day. He was empathetic about my irritation. He acknowledged that it was, indeed, terrible policy to hang up on customers. And he asked me to summarize my feelings so that he could document them in my record and make sure that a supervisor in customer service saw them. He then told me the potentially bad news. To schedule my closing at my local branch, he had to call the branch and then connect me with whomever answers on the other side. Often, he informed me, the branch employees are too busy to take the call and ask the CSR to give the customers the local number and ask them to CALL BACK LATER!

We felt brave, so we went ahead and placed the call. Bob put me on hold and came back very quickly to say that, as anticipated, I was being asked to call back later. He, however, had told the local representative that “this isn’t a good idea,” and tried to explain why. So I was on hold for about four minutes with Bob coming on to chat every 30 seconds or so. Finally, the local office took the call and set up an appointment for me for three days later.

The day before the closing, I received a very polite and personable call from the branch reminding me of the closing--and suggesting that I might want to look into investing some of the money I had in short-term accounts into longer-term, higher-yield accounts (great up-selling!).

The closing went well, and I’m now picking out colors for my kitchen counters.

Touchpoint Consistency

Again, I give high marks to FleetBoston personnel and their focus on customer service. Whenever a person was involved, things went well. But Fleet needs to provide that same customer focus in all policies across all touchpoints. For many potential customers, the phone is the first step to interacting with the back. A phone system that hangs up on you isn’t going to encourage that customer to buy!

So, Fleet, your marching orders are:

  • Determine what information customers are going to want at which touchpoints (e.g., answering questions on the phone, checking interest rates on the Web).
  • Provide that information!
  • Rethink policies across the board based on customer scenarios--what customers want to do.
  • Be consistent among the touchpoints.
  • Don’t deny service at one touchpoint just because it’s a more costly one (e.g., answering the phone), but do make it easier for customers to accomplish the tasks in their scenarios using self-service touchpoints, e.g., automated phone systems, e-mail, or Web.

As you improve the efficacy of your self-service options, you’ll decrease that category of calls to your personnel and reduce customer complaints and frustration.

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