Adults, business

If the customer is happy, so is everyone else; especially in banking. The advent of mobile banking has pushed the industry to find new ways to connect with customers.

According to Russ Edwards, senior vice president of retail banking at Civista Bank in Sandusky, and Frances Slomo, Chase’s market director for Cleveland East in Cleveland, customer service is a key differentiating factor from one bank to the next.

Russ said customer service is “intertwined” within the banking business.

“If we don’t have customers, we don’t have a bank,” he said. “Civista is not the only place where people can get banking services. That said, (customer service) needs to be a very important part and very connected to what we do, or any bank does.”

At Civista, Edwards said a key part is referring to customer service as “customer experience.”

“Customer service can be very transactional, like a one-time event,” he explained. “But customer experience is exactly that, it’s an experience. One experience builds on another, giving you the customer journey.”

Within the customer journey, Edwards said employees take everything into account to create a favorable experience.

“It can be as simple as how our branches look when one pulls into the driveway or lot,” he noted. “Is everything clean and well lit? Do we make it easy to get into the bank? Anything that is hard or makes the customer think, that is something we want to do away with. The idea is to reduce any friction from the customer experience.”

For Chase, Slomo said the company is “customer-obsessed,” looking to create an experience where customers can bank when, where and how they want. Recognizing that mobile banking is a game changer, Chase capitalizes on that to extend the customer experience online, she added.

“We know the way consumers bank has changed,” she said. “Technology has advanced to the point where almost all traditional banking transactions, including deposits, transfers and bill pay, can be done from the convenience of an ATM, online or on a mobile app. Given this, customers are using branches differently.”

To that end, Slomo said customers want to know where branches are in case they need immediate advice.

“We want to provide a seamless customer experience and ensure that we’re enabling customers to interact with us in the way that’s most convenient for them. We make significant investments in our digital platforms and functionality to make it easier for customers.”

But customer service isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation, Edwards explained. Though banks may have plans to hit all the important service touchpoints, he stated there should be some built-in flexibility for each need.

“Everyone wants to feel special,” he said. “So, it’s incumbent upon the bank to personalize the services they’re giving to clients. No one wants to feel like they had a cookie-cutter experience. You want it specific to your situation. When banks can give you a particular solution to your situation that is personalized to you, that makes you feel special and keeps you coming back.”

Slomo said, “We’re relentlessly focused on the customer (at Chase). We recognize the humans behind the numbers and reply to their specific habits, preferences and needs. We want to help our customers make the most out of their money and to do that, we keep customer needs front and center in everything we do.”

Customer service seems to be more important now more than ever, Edwards said, especially as customers expect a level of support in all parts of their lives.

“The reason why this is important for any of us is the Amazon effect,” she said. “A bank’s competition is no longer only other banks. They have experiences at Amazon, at Costco, at Starbucks and AT&T, and beyond. So, they’ve come to expect to be dealt with in a certain way, so the expectations have been raised. That is the reason why customer experience is here to stay.”

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