Banking call centers outperformed retailer call centers in a recent benchmarking survey.

The 1999 O'Connor Retail Benchmark Report ranked banking call centers higher in six of seven attributes measured.

Compared to the five retail call center leaders studied in the survey, the group of 17 commercial banks and thrifts scored highest in their cross-selling capability. They posted an average score of 22%, compared with the retail group's 15%.

Cross selling was by far the lowest-ranked capability of both groups, however.

In customer rapport, banks scored an average of 76% against the retail group's 70%. In customer greetings, banks came out ahead by 83% to 77%.

Both sectors scored slightly lower in identifying callers' needs and in closing their conversations. In identifying customers' needs, the banks scored 68% versus 65% for the retailers. In closing telephone calls effectively, the banks' rating was 61% versus 60% for the retailers.

The retailer group -- consisting of Dell Computer, Hertz Rent-a-Car, AT&T Universal Card (owned by Citigroup), 1-800-Flowers, and Lands' End -- scored slightly higher only in product knowledge, at 89% versus the banks' 88%.

Both industries did very well in professionalism -- 96% for the banks and 94% for the retailers.

Each of the 17 banks in the survey received 100 unsolicited calls within a month. They were tested on three scenarios to evaluate customer service representatives on the seven attributes. The tests were: opening a no-fee checking account, taking out a personal loan, and getting information on certificates of deposit.

A core group of banks, part of the benchmark report since its inception in 1996, includes Chase Manhattan Corp., Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., Bank of America Corp., Bank One Corp., Wachovia Corp., Fleet Financial Group, PNC Bank Corp., KeyCorp, Charter One Financial Corp., and First Union Corp. This year, Washington Mutual Inc., was added. Others include Union Bank of California, Dime Savings Bank, and U.S. Bancorp -- all chosen for their high media profile or acquisition activity.

"Banks are not only interested in how customers are reacting to their own internal call centers but how their call centers compare to other major call centers in the retail world," said Anthony Viggiano, vice president at O'Connor & Associates of Pittsford, N.Y., which publishes the report twice yearly. "They want to get an overall feeling of what the call center environment is like for their customers," he added.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.