Customer Service Empowerment Brings Best Practices To Life: A Retail Banking-Credit Union Case Study
As a customer service consultant, I’m often asked to design and deploy customer service best practices–or behavioral and brand standards, as I prefer to think of them–for companies seeking to transform their customer experience. Essential though this is, it’s only part of what building a world-class customer service operation and customer service culture requires. You also need to…
…Hire the right employees (more here on how to hire customer-centric employees)
…Onboard these new employees appropriately, i.e., in a way that stresses their purpose within your company rather than just your rules and regulations (more on onboarding for purpose here)
…Provide effective and inspiring customer service training (more here on how to do customer service training right–and avoid doing it wrong)
… and then empower these well-hired, well-trained, well-onboarded employees to do the right thing. Otherwise, the level of customer service you’re going to be able to provide as an organization will be limited to mere words–best practices–on paper and never be infused with the flexibility and stretching that real-world customer service requires.
Let’s look at how employee empowerment drives customer service excellence at CHROME, a federal credit union (FCU) in Washington, PA that’s frequently ranked at the top in its market for member satisfaction (“member” being the term for customers in the credit union world) as well as receiving multiple awards and commendations from both the community and the banking-industry press.[Author’s disclosure: I have previously done professional work for the firm.] Two CHROME employees, Jon and Sarah, headed out to a member’s home not long ago to help him get signed up in person for a new online banking service. They hadn’t succeeded in working through the online setup with this particular member on the phone, and he felt unable to come in to the branch to get signed up, as the area was suffering through a period of extreme weather that was compounding the normal challenges of the mountainous terrain in greater Pittsburgh, where CHROME is located.
Upon arriving at the member’s home, the member confided that he had been having “a rough time” with the recent rainstorms both with it limiting his ability to get around and because his basement was prone to flooding. “We peeked in the basement door,” says Jon from CHROME, “and there was what I’d say was a foot of water that he’d been trying to bail out using buckets. He did know there was a better way, and, in fact, showed me an ad for a Shop-Vac pump that he was going to buy once his next Social Security payment went into his account, which wouldn’t happen for another two weeks.”
Jon and Sarah decided on the spot that they were going to buy him the Shop-Vac and drove to the local supply store to get what turned out to be the last one in stock, which they were able to buy using the CHROME company credit card that is available for such occasions. According to Robert Flanyak, the President and CEO of CHROME, “this solution did require a financial outlay, and when a solution does, the company credit card is intended–even encouraged–as a resource, without a set limit, just a request that our employees use sound judgment. I want to take pains to mention, though, that there are also cases I’m equally proud of where our employees made an exceptional effort for our 17,000 members, but by investing something other than money: a bit of creativity and expertise, applied where it could make a difference. For example, we’ve had employees roll up their sleeves and work side by side with a member on family budgeting after their income dropped precipitously. Something like that doesn’t depend on cash at all, but it can make all the difference.”