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Why Improving Internal Customer Service Makes Sense

July 17th, 2013
Why Improving Internal Customer Service Makes Sense

Many banks focus on improving customer satisfaction and loyalty by gathering customer feedback and incenting customer-facing employees to provide superior service.  One often overlooked area, however, is the support that customer-facing employees receive from their colleagues behind the scenes.  A branch representative who is trying to help a customer with a complex loan application needs the loan support group to be quickly available to answer questions he/she may not have encountered before.  If they take a long time to answer the phone, customer satisfaction can decline considerably.

At many financial institutions, internal support staff do not fully realize the impact their role has on attracting and keeping customers.  By engaging them through feedback from the staff members they serve, they become more connected and able to focus their efforts on aspects of their job that influence customer perceptions and emotions.

An internal service initiative is typically much less expensive than a customer feedback survey because it can be done completely online, requires fewer surveys, and is typically only conducted 2-4 times per year.  All customer-facing staff members are asked to identify which internal departments they have interacted with in the past few months and then are given the opportunity to evaluate those departments on key internal service drivers.

One of the benefits of measuring internal service is the message it sends:  Everyone is responsible for service, not just those who interact with the customer.  To customer-facing staff, this can make a significant difference.  They are frequently receiving feedback from customers about things they feel they can’t control, and can sometimes feel the burden of making improvements in customer satisfaction is too heavily placed on them.  When internal support staff are also held accountable for the service they provide, customer-facing employees feel a greater sense of fairness, support,  and recognition from management that service requires the effort of the whole team.  This feeling in and of itself can go a long way to getting staff members on board with the effort and creating a company-wide service culture.

Feedback from internal service measurement also tends to create stronger communication between units.  For example, when a department at one Avannis client received feedback that the wait time to speak with their department was too long, they identified several questions they received frequently and then worked with the units they supported to train them on how to find the answers to those questions more quickly without having to call the phone line.  The result was increased satisfaction on the next internal survey.  Another Avannis client that was going through a merger found that employees from the acquired bank were much less satisfied than those from the acquiring institution.  By designating a point person who made face-to-face contact and was accessible regardless of the issue, the bank was able to significantly improve satisfaction among the employees of the acquired institution by the next survey.

It follows that if staff members deliver a higher quality of service to each other, the end customer will benefit through more efficient service and happier bank representatives.  Avannis clients who measure internal service have invariably seen corresponding improvements in their external customer satisfaction scores.  Some clients who had reached a plateau in their customer service improvement efforts were able to break the impasse by measuring and improving internal service.