The pandemic has dramatically changed the way companies conduct business, forcing many to rethink their customer service approach. Over the past year, consumers have also reevaluated their priorities and expectations of the brands they support, prioritizing meaningful, personalized experiences.
According to a Salesforce survey, 62% of customers said their experiences with one industry influences their expectations of others. This means that consumers are making mental comparisons between service approaches and evaluating their brand affinity on anything but an “apples to apples” basis.
Unfair or not, forward thinking marketers at all types of companies are reshaping their CX approach in a post-pandemic world. Bank of America has taken meaningful steps in its formulation of a customer service strategy to address this unique environment.
We had the opportunity to speak with Ashley Ross who leads the client care experience at Bank of America. She shares here the lessons learned throughout the pandemic, all of which are valuable to companies wishing to adapt to increase client satisfaction and loyalty.
Ashley shared three key tenets of building a successful customer service strategy.
1) Treat customers as individuals, not numbers: No two customers are the same. Put personalization at the center of your CX strategy, tailoring products, solutions, advice, and guidance to serve their unique needs. This will be a major focus for Bank of America over the next 3-5 years. Brands that leverage customer feedback and data can better understand individual needs and improve customer satisfaction.
2) Invest in Digital: As digital channels continue to surge, brands that provide value by enabling customers to self-serve and solve common challenges or rapidly escalate others will rise to the top. In fact, as of the beginning of July, more than 70% of Bank of America clients are actively engaging with digital channels to manage their financial lives. Just don’t forget the importance of complementing your CX with in-person offerings which are equally important to customers.
3) Lead with Empathy: Empathy serves as a foundational component of the customer experience — especially given the challenges many people continue to face today. Ongoing training is critical to help employees retain soft skills as they help clients navigate unique challenges. More importantly, always lead by example. A company that values the well-being of its employees is better able to create a culture that carries over to client interactions.
Bank of America has successfully employed surveys to gain authentic feedback. The bank launched a survey initiative “Voices” and, since the program launch, Voices has executed 50 million surveys, 12 million in 2021 alone. The surveys are put into play based on interactions at the bank branch and online.
The evaluation criteria are similar in nature to NPS scoring and the results are integrated centrally in a decision engine for analysis and action. The bank also reviews verbatim comments to learn more nuances among the responses.
Among key findings, Bank of America learned that customers build an appreciation for the banking associate. They have been able to leverage these associates in flexible ways in order to best serve clients, and in one case redeployed 3,000 plus associates from the branches to manage increased call center volumes.
Greater personalization has been achieved through better data management and the financial wellness program Life Plan has been a vehicle through which Bank of America is making every interaction more personal to customers. Life Plan is a digital offer that tracks near term and longer-term goals, helping to create a personal life plan in the process. This digital connection is enhanced by connecting participating customers with a bank branch associate.
Launched in fall 2020, over 5 million customers have engaged to create a financial plan and this participation has come across all demographics. As a result of these efforts, Bank of America was recently rated #1 in Financial Wellness by JD Power and associates.
Ashley highlighted another important element of the bank’s customer service strategy saying,
“Choice is important. You need to make the experience easier and make it about choice. It’s important to understand the client journey and how they want to interact with your brand. Then you have to take steps to make it easy for them to interact with you in their preferred channel.”