Customer Service. Can Technology Fix It?

A lot has been written lately about how banks and credit unions need “digital transformation” to succeed.  Is that true?  Sure. If you don’t offer a great app or online banking services, you may as well turn your branch locations into coffee shops.  Note: Some are pretty close to that now!?

But how about customer service?

You know, the best personalized digital banking experience in the world isn’t going to help you keep (or earn) a customer if you abandon customer service. 

This is, of course, a problem across every industry at the moment… probably most notably in food service. The futureofcommerce.com, in “2021 customer service trends: Doubling down, post-pandemic,” states that “this year has put the spotlight on customer service as businesses grappled with an influx of calls from distressed customers as well as wide-ranging disruptions to their operations.” I’m sure you’ve experienced it, too.

While I don’t do fast food very often, I was just recently in a burger joint drive thru where I was told that the wait might be extra long because there weren’t enough employees working.  There was even a handwritten note taped on the drive thru window glass (I’m surprised that letters cut out of a newspaper weren’t used) asking patrons to “not lose it with the worker at the window. It’s not their fault that the food takes so long.” At a local restaurant, I was told that even though the dining room was empty that my wait would be close to thirty minutes. The reason?  Only one server.  When I asked if they were hiring, the hostess told me “yes, we’ve been trying but we can’t get anyone to work.”  On the other hand, get in a Chick-fil-A drive thru line and you can pretty much bet on having your food -- even where there are a dozen cars ahead of you -- in just 5 to 10 minutes.  Which is probably why the line at Chick-fil-A is 12 cars deep and the one at the burger joint is non-existent; and you still have to wait 15 minutes to get food you didn’t order! 

Now, onto online businesses. As for seeking help over the phone for issues I’ve had with some of my favorite e-commerce sites, well, “fuggedaboutit,” as Joey Peeps used to say. Canva, for example.  Canva throws everything but the kitchen sink onto their website in hopes that they’ve covered everything. Unfortunately, like most e-commerce sites, the word “support” doesn’t even make the top navigation. Instead, if you scroll all the way down to the footer, you’ll find -- somewhere under what they call “Resources,” I think -- answers to “commonly asked” questions.  What happens if your question isn’t commonly asked?  It doesn’t get answered, and there is no one to call to get it answered, either.

Then there are those companies that do go the extra couple hundred yards and offer an 800 number for customer service. If you can actually wait long enough to simply get a recorded, audio-animatronic response, it usually starts with “Thank you for your patience.” I’m not sure what makes these people think I’m being patient; I’m not. I’m not just calling to say hello.  I’m calling because I need help and urgently. The shopping cart won’t accept my card, my login credentials aren’t working, an item I want to order is out of stock and I’d like to know when it will be back in stock… Then the recorded customer service person goes through a litany of things that I could have done, rather than try getting someone on the phone.  “If this is a medical emergency, call 9-1-1. Did you know that you can visit us online?”  Yes, I did. In fact, that’s why I’m calling; your online isn’t working!  And this old standby: “This call may be recorded for quality and training purposes.”  Obviously, no quality or training is going on here, so I’m not sure what the point of that is. One of my favorites is “press 1 for English”. Unfortunately, more often than not, the person you’ll finally get to speak with is probably in another country, and however well intended, does not speak English as their first language.

A bright spot in all this?  My community bank. Can we say small community bank? I love these people.  Why is their customer service so much better than everything else out there that I’m encountering?  I don’t know the behind-the-scenes, but I do appreciate the result:  A friendly and knowledgeable individual who answers the phone within about four rings.  Even if they told me that there was absolutely nothing that they could do to help, I’d still appreciate it. That’s because, well, at least it’s something.  Futureofcommerce.com also makes this observation, which I found interesting: “After a challenging year, organizations are looking to the potential of this alignment -- between sales and service -- to improve customer experience, increase revenue, and reduce cost. Too often, customer service is seen as a separate unit, triggered when something goes wrong and customers complain. This mindset causes businesses to miss out on growth opportunities. Aligning sales and service helps customer service agents deliver more personalized customer experiences, which naturally leads to better business outcomes. Also, agents with insight into how customers have interacted with sales teams have increased upsell and cross-selling opportunities.”

Is the balancing act that companies walk in controlling customer service costs without sacrificing service quality a tough one?  Absolutely. I’m even a bit reluctant to say this, since a reliance on technologies helped get us into this customer service mess in the first place, but maybe technology can offer the solution. With intelligent technologies like machine learning and the Internet of Things, companies can automate routine tasks like ticket categorizations, giving service agents more time to focus on value-added interactions with customers in need.

Slaask.com in “5 Ways to Improve Customer Happiness Through Technology:” “Now that we have so many ways to contact customers, there’s really no excuse for businesses to have a poor communication model. The best thing about having so many forms of technology available is that you can connect with customers through their favorite communication media. For example, there’s a huge majority of customers today that would rather use live chat to communicate.”  Hmmm. My experience with live chat has been less than stellar. Instead of chatting with a live human, I end up with an AI “chat bot” who can do little more than greet me, then redirect me to another useless page on their website. Or, my question gets referred, finally, to a real human being who, unfortunately, proves to be no more help than the robot.

In the end, I just don’t know.  Can technology fix the problem?  Maybe. What do you think?  As always, I welcome your thoughts!

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, relevant, and compelling communication that will help you build trust, relationships, and with them, your brand. All while saving you time and money.

To view our marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to in-branch brochures and signage –  visit bankmarketingcenter.com. Or, you can contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.



Introducing Martech Without the Migraine.


Just in case you stepped away from your computer for a few minutes, marketing technology or martech, describes the software and technology used to attract and retain customers. There’s been a lot of talk about it, and rightfully so. According to HubSpot’s recent article, “What Marketing Leaders are Investing in This Year”, 60% of marketers indicated that they are set to increase their marketing technology spending in the next 12 months. The reason, of course, is that investments in marketing technology are the solution du jour when it comes to a financial institution’s ability to, as HubSpot puts it, “retain and delight their audiences and react at speed when necessary. And the options are vast. As of 2020, there are 8,000 different martech tools to choose from, ranging from data analytics platforms to CRMs, to internal team collaboration tools.”

Now, the need for better data analytics, automated processes, and collaboration tools has been around for quite some time.  With the changes we’re seeing from COVID-19, and the trend toward virtual officing, that need has increased significantly. The processes, and the personnel, that facilitated the concepting and execution of marketing messaging no longer live under one roof.  With stakeholders scattered -- the usual players such as product development, sales, brand, and creative -- it’s just no longer possible to simply get together in a conference room and “hammer things out.”

What’s the solution?  Marketing technology. Well, unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as that.  As  Laurie Busby pointed out in her Financial Brand article, “Marketing Automation Doesn’t Have to End in Costly Failure, marketing automation can, unfortunately, end in costly failure. “Some financial institutions are so eager to enter the martech world that they let themselves be sold deluxe software packages and empty promises. Many such teams sign on with tech-giant platforms that charge monstrous upfront costs and require exhaustive training. Months later — sometimes longer — these institutions still won’t have the software up and running. Without the right support, these once enthusiastic folks find themselves stuck wading through massive “bloatware” platforms. No one on their teams has the bandwidth to train new users on properly, let alone manage. Worst of all, they find themselves no closer to their goals and can’t demonstrate any ROI to their key stakeholders.”

First Interstate, a community bank headquartered in Billings, Montana with more than 150 offices across Idaho, Montana, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming, solved this challenge with a private label portal from BankMarketingCenter.com.

“As a large community regional bank with a diversified suite of financial products and services, we knew that we needed a way to get branded, compliant, approved messaging out into the marketplace in an efficient, cost-effective manner. That led us to BankMarketingCenter.com and the development of a private label portal.”

- Sara Becker, SVP, Director, Marketing & Communications

First Interstate’s portal is a custom designed, automated system that organizes assets, streamlines the review process, tracks projects at every stage of development, archives the entire project process from start to finish, offers high quality templates along with thousands of images, and ensures both information accuracy and brand standards compliance. 

“Anything going through our agency was expensive and had a long turnaround time; sometimes as long as two weeks. And, we could never be sure that the information in those materials was current and compliant. When we access materials in the portal, we know that the information in those templates is current and that it meets compliance demands.”

-  Rhianna H. Tretin, Marketing & PR Specialist

BankMarketingCenter.com allows First Interstate Bank to get their marketing message out quickly, efficiently, and always on brand. Through the portal, the bank’s 1,200 users can access approved, branded materials and customize them in seconds to target their local markets and then have them downloaded or electronically delivered to the approved vendor. The software also builds in controls from a budget and compliance standpoint since there are levels of access and approval for different users. Once a marketing product is ordered, the technology automatically routes the request through marketing/compliance for approval. Once approved, the product is sent directly to the bank’s approved printer or media outlet. 

By working with BankMarketingCenter.com, First Interstate Bank can maintain control of their brand image and empower team members at the local level with high quality, professionally created ads and marketing materials they can customize. The portal has helped the bank save thousands of dollars in marketing costs, facilitate compliance, and respond more quickly to demands for marketing materials. And the bank anticipates that this trend will continue as it expands its use of their customized private label portal.

Busby concludes with this thought: “That is why when choosing a platform and package, you must not only consider your marketing needs, but also ensure that meeting them with martech falls within the scope of your department’s capabilities. Throughout the selection process, remember your end goal: You are aiming for better, personalized communication and smarter use of your team’s capabilities. The right software is out there — you just may need to poke around before you find it.”

We couldn’t agree more.

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, relevant, and compelling communication that will help you build trust, relationships, and with them, your brand. All while saving you time and money.

To view our marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to in-branch brochures and signage – visit bankmarketingcenter.com. Or, you can contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.