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Four executives with large financial services providers responded to questions last week on customer satisfaction metrics, market segmentation and more during BAI's Retail Delivery Show here.

The participants were Benjamin P. Jenkins, president of the General Bank, Wachovia Corp.; Connie Beck, EVP-personal financial services and small business banking with Comerica; Daniel Masiello, field VP with Ameriprise Financial (the former American Express Financial Advisors), and Gary Tucker, senior VP with J.D. Power and Associates. Also on hand was Paul McAdam, senior managing director of BAI Research.

The questions were posed to the group by Deborah L. Bianucci, president of BAI. Here's a look at what they had to say:

Bianucci: How do you approach customer satisfaction?

Jenkins: We contract with the Gallup Organization to survey 80,000 customers to measure satisfaction and loyalty. We've seen over the five or six years we've seen that our customer service has improved and attrition has declined. It's almost a one-to-one relationship.

Masiello: We want (consumers) to think of us as listeners first. We want our advisors to be very good at listening. Clients want to look at things comprehensively. They don't just want to look at product, which is very commoditized. We want to speak to their complete needs. Lastly, we look at availability. It's not that they can't intellectually do what we do; it's that they don't have the time to do it. They want availability in the evenings and weekend."

Tucker: We just recently completed our first-ever consumer banking study, and J.D. Power found that customer satisfaction with retail branch banking compares favorably with satisfaction in other service industries (hospitals were rated highest, followed by auto insurance and then branch banking). Satisfaction doesn't matter unless we can translate it into commitment.

We find that satisfaction doesn't drive commitment-delight drives commitment. So we try to find what can we do to move someone from an 8 or 9 on a 10-point satisfactions scale to a 10, which is delight. When I go to my local Starbucks, the Barista knows what I drink. When I go to my ATM, my bank doesn't even know what language I speak."

Jenkings: We do segment our customers and we do the same studies of profitability that everyone else does. But it's very difficult to know how do you set up your service delivery differently for every segment. So we work to provide the same delivery for every segment. We don't change our queuing (priorities), for instance (based on balance). To the front-line employee we're trying to deliver clarity-we don't want that front-line employee thinking 'Is this A-level service and is this B-level service?

I also believe the BAI research makes great sense. Just because someone is in the 70% of not being relationship-oriented doesn't mean they don't want good services or their needs being taken into account.

Bianucci: Remind us about some of the distinctions in the BAI research between segments that are receptive to a relationship with a bank and those that are indifferent.

McAdam: Of the 70% (who indicated in BAI research they aren't interested in a relationship with a bank), many of those are "very satisfied" and many are very good customers. But many of them don't want to take it to the next level, and that often requires a personal connection. Now they probably have that personal connection somewhere in their lives. The relationship customers really do seek out the personal interactions and enjoy it. (See related story, page 1).

Bianucci: What about banks vs. nonbanks in terms of quality?

Masiello: From a measurement perspective, two of the key initiatives we look at each year are the front-line customer satisfaction, and what do customers think of the firm and what do they think of their advisor. And if they're not happy with their advisor that advisor has to define what they are going to do to improve that.

Bianucci: What about developing leadership skills in the management organization that oversees the front line?

Jenkins: We believe in this business it's very hard to have a competitive advantage. Almost everything we do somebody else can copy within seven days. We believe service delivery, if you commit to it and invest in it, can take a long time but it is very difficult to follow. We do believe in focusing on employees in leadership and having much more effective leaders can give you a competitive advantage.

We're in year one of what will probably be a four-year program of improving leadership. We do a deep-dive survey of engagement with our employees, and the No. 1 thing that stands out is that people who do not feel engaged do not have a relationship with their boss. It's a huge area of emphasis for us.

Bianucci: Could you speak to the research J.D. Powers conducted on how employee attitudes in banks compare to other industries?

Tucker: Not a surprise, for financial services, people is the most important element for impacting satisfaction. It's hard work, not often difficult or complex, but we often come across examples of conflicting goals for employees. In call centers, for instance, we've found that (customers) are generally not upset if there's a problem but they can resolve it on the first call. Yet in our call center the driving performance measurement metric is call-time.

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