Put A Date On Hold

How can a bank improve customer service?

“How can banks improve their customer experience?”

A few weeks ago a Loyalty Loop subscriber actually asked me that question and they couldn’t have picked a better time to ask. You see, I’m actually looking for a new bank right now.

And the reason I’m switching after 27 years?

My current bank’s customer experience leaves me feeling like I’ve been scammed

Quick disclaimer: I haven’t exactly been with my bank for nearly three decades by choice: I started as a BankBoston customer, and then BankBoston was bought over by BayBank, which was bought by Fleet Bank, which was then sold to Bank of America. So it’s fair to say that I’m a Bank of America customer by acquisition, not by choice.

But all of those mergers are kind of old news, so why am I only now considering moving my five (yup, five!) bank accounts elsewhere? 

Well, it’s mostly down to one short email from Sophia at Bank of America:

Subject line: Follow up to my call.

Dear Andrew,

My name is Sophia, and I'm a Relationship Manager at Bank of America®.

I recently called you to thank you for your business but I was unable to reach you. Please give me a call when you're able to. Or if you prefer, you can schedule an appointment at your convenience through our secure online scheduling tool.

Thanks for choosing Bank of America&reg. (It actually said, “ampersand, reg”!)

I look forward to speaking with you soon.

Sophia finishes her email with her contact info and a big button to schedule an appointment.

And that’s it!

Now here's the thing: I have no idea who Sophia is. None! And I'd received exactly zero phone calls from Bank of America; no voicemail, no missed calls, nothing. So I was immediately suspicious. I’m wondering, how did Sophia try to reach me? Does my bank have the wrong contact details for me? So I hit reply, and I type the following:


What number did you call?


I hit “Send” and get an instant response: “Address not found”. Okay, well that’s annoying, so I try the “Schedule an appointment” button instead.

And I don’t get any further with that either, because it wants to know what I’d like to discuss. Do I want to open a new account? No! Meet with a notary? No! Service an existing account? No, I don't think so… Other?

So now I’m getting frustrated, because, well, I don’t want to talk about anything! Literally nothing. You reached out to me, Sophia!

It’s a terrible experience. It’s a time-suck, it’s frustrating, and worse, it’s eroding any trust I had in my bank. And if there’s one thing that banks need to foster with their customers, it’s trust.

After all, this is a company that’s managing over a trillion dollars in assets (some of them mine!); trust is vital. And the really frustrating thing is that fixing this horrible customer experience isn’t a big job.

All they need to do is look to one of the six Loyalty Loop drivers: scaling camaraderie.

Building trust and respect

Scaling camaraderie is the key to building trust with your customers and it’s so easy. But Sophia and Bank of America got it wrong at every stage of our “interaction”. 

Mistake 1:

She lied.

There’s no way Sophia tried to call me; I've had the exact same phone number for 19 years on my Bank of America account. Boom — trust gone.

When I finally did track her down and asked her about the call, she essentially told me that she’s not allowed to actually dial the phone number. She has a system that takes care of dialling; all she has to do is hit a button. And the system said that it tried to call my number. 

It didn’t. I have no missed calls on the date Sophia sent the email, no voicemails, nothing. So she’s blaming the system, and it may well be a tech error. But the thing is, I don’t care about her system. As a customer, the only thing I care about is my money and the trust I’ve placed in this institution to manage it.

As a rule, consumers don’t want to hear your excuses. And whether or not you’ve actually lied, if the customer feels like they’ve been deceived, they’re outta there!

Mistake number 2:

Sending an email from an address that can’t receive emails. It’s incredibly frustrating, never, ever do this. Ever...

Mistake number 3:

Directing me to a page to schedule an appointment that has nothing to do with the email. In this situation, a link to Sophia’s Calendly schedule would have been way better.

Mistake 4: 

On top of all of that, Sophia doesn’t have a LinkedIn account and I couldn’t find her anywhere online.

So of course, those alarm bells were deafening. I started to wonder if this was a phishing email, if I was being scammed by some con artist who wanted access to my bank accounts. And when I figured out that the email was legitimate, I started to wonder if I could even trust the bank.

Of course, because of the nature of banking, mutual trust between the bank and the customer is vital, possibly more so than for any other business. But, at the same time, switching bank accounts (especially when you have five of them!) is a colossal pain, so sometimes banks manage to hang on to customers way longer than they deserve.

In your business, you might not have the same grace period, particularly if it’s less hassle for customers to move to another provider than it is to stick with you and your product or service. So you have to be even more careful to take care of that mutual trust, loyalty, and respect you’ve been building. At every stage of your customers’ journey, with every interaction you have with them, always try to think about what you could do to scale camaraderie and strengthen that trust. 

And, that’s it, folks. Now, if you have any bank recommendations, hit me with them in the comments. Bonus points if they provide amazing customer experiences and don’t make it too much of a hassle to switch. If anyone can help me find a bank I can trust, I know it’s going to be you guys!

Don’t miss next week’s Loyalty Loop when we’ll look at the real reasons that magazines are having trouble maintaining and increasing their print subscribers, and discover a few simple things that we can ALL learn from their trials and tribulations. Subscribe below and you’ll get every episode (and nothing else) a whole day before the rest of the world.

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