Customer Service Hall of Fame Inductees

Last week, MSN revealed their 2012 Customer Service Hall of Fame as well as their Hall of Shame, based on their survey, conducted with JZ Analytics. The results are fascinating though not entirely surprising. It is worthy of note that these survey are “consistent with what the American Customer Satisfaction Index has noticed lately,” in that customer satisfaction across many industries has been improving.

One important company in the Hall of Fame is American Express, who has successfully taken on the task of vastly improving how cardholders are treated. Executive VP of world service, Jim Bush, said about his approach to improving customer service at American Express, “I thought about the opportunity of capitalizing on every interaction and moving awat from being a cost of doing business to being an investment in buidling relationships. Read more about Bush’s approach and how AmEx call centers do not use any scripts in Fortune’s article here

On the opposite end of the spectrum lies Bank of America, earning the top spot in the Hall of Shame for the second year in a row. In the last year, Bank of America announced (though never implemented) a hugely criticized plan to charge customers a $5 monthly fee for using debit cards to make purchases. MSN gathers three responses Bank of America has offered since they backed off of this plan. The bank first explained their announcement by claiming the fees to be necessary due to costs incurred from federal regulations. This explanation not only discounts Bank of America’s customers but seems to ignore them entirely. Second, spokeswoman Anne Pace insisted, “It’s important to note that we never implemented the fee,” which essentially says to customers, “We’re not that bad. We didn’t do that thing we said we would that infuriated you.” Lastly, a Bank of America senior vice president recently said, “I think we’ve learned a heck of a lot over the past year.” We certainly hope so.

Read more about what MSN’s survey lists as the 10 best (Hall of Fame) and worst (Hall of Shame) companies in terms of customer service by clicking the corresponding links, and be prepared to not be surprised by where Apple, Google, Amazon, or several cable providers rank.

IntelliShop and RateWatch Announce Partnership

New Study Finds Big Banks Exhibit Better Sales Skills than Small Institutions

Credit unions and small community banks are missing the opportunity to grab market share from major financial institutions due to lack of sales effort according to a new study released jointly by IntelliShop and RateWatch.  The study, which had 120 auditors pose as new checking account prospects, found that the large banks not only did a better job of assessing customer needs, they were much more proactive about “selling” the benefits of the bank and its services.

“The lackluster performance of credit unions in particular was disappointing because the Wall Street backlash gave these alternative institutions a great opening to grow their customer base,” said Chris Denove, IntelliShop’s Senior Vice President of Research and Analytics. 

The study found that account representatives at the local institutions were pleasant overall, but tend to take a more laid back approach when they answer questions and don’t take it upon themselves to bring up the bank’s benefits on their own.  For example, compared to small banks and credit unions, large banks were:

  • Four times more likely to try to find out about all the other types of banking relationships prospects have at their current institution.
  • Nearly twice as likely to ask prospects if they wanted to actually sign up today.
  • Nearly twice as likely to collect a prospect’s contact information for follow up.

Smaller institutions, however, were more likely to hand prospects collateral material to take home and read, thereby requiring the customer to uncover the bank’s benefits on their own.

The study also found that in addition to placing a greater emphasis on “selling,” large banks also exhibited better “people skills” during the sales process.  A few examples reported by the mystery auditors include:

  • Large banks are more likely to greet customers as they enter the bank.
  • Large banks are twice as likely to initiate conversation (small talk) unrelated to the transaction in order to build rapport with the prospect.

“The fact that the larger banks were more engaging at a personal level came as a surprise,” noted Rachelle Zorn, General Manager of RateWatch.  “In the past small banks have tended to do better in terms of customer satisfaction.  It will be interesting to see if the larger banks will begin carrying this high level of customer focus in their sales efforts over to their existing clients.”

IntelliShop and RateWatch recently established a partnership to provide mystery audit services for financial institutions and conducted this study to establish a performance benchmark for their clients.  According to Mrs. Zorn, “We are extremely pleased about our new relationship with IntelliShop.  RateWatch is in the business of providing financial institutions with timely and relevant market information that will help them better compete in a highly competitive marketplace and our relationship with IntelliShop allows us to provide our clients with additional performance insights that they need.  With over 10 years of experience and extremely high customer service and quality standards, IntelliShop is recognized as a leader in the mystery shopping industry so we are confident that they will deliver the same level of service and quality that our clients have come to expect from RateWatch.”

To request a free copy of the report, or obtain more information about RateWatch and IntelliShop’s mystery audit services for financial institutions please contact Brian Davis – Business Development Associate, RateWatch at or 800.348.1831 x4294.

About RateWatch

Since 1989, RateWatch has been providing financial institutions with a variety of tools to accurately assess their position within their marketplace.  Providing competitive rate and fee data for deposit and loan products, clients across the country map out their position and confidently make pricing decisions to maximize profit potential. With additional products and services to analyze market share, product line offerings, and historical trends, competitive comparisons and self-analyses are well rounded.  Learn more at

About IntelliShop

IntelliShop is a national mystery shopping and customer experience measurement firm dedicated to helping clients understand and improve what happens at the moment-of-truth with their customers. IntelliShop offers mystery shopping evaluations, customer satisfaction research, analytics and consultation, and much more. With over 450,000 evaluators, IntelliShop helps companies measure and improve their customer experiences onsite, on the phone, and on the web. Learn more at


This term is generally used by companies as a replacement for "layoffs".  After an experience I had the other day, I have a new way of thinking about it.  I frequently get my RBSUV (Really Big SUV) washed at a local place that offers hand-drying.  Ah, there's nothing like a clean car!  In the summer, they usually hire a lot of teenagers, mostly female, mostly pretty cute; good for business, no doubt.  The girl who was drying cars the other day was only about 5' tall.  Very nice, thanked me, smiled, etc.  But, she couldn't reach across my windshield to dry it off, so I had two options: let it air-dry and live for a couple days with water spots, right in my line of vision, potentially causing me to fixate on those, versus dodging all the texting-while-driving idiots.  Or, I could get out and dry it myself.  If you know me, you know which option I chose.
Have you right-sized your staff lately?  Do you have people who are too short to serve your customers?  Not literally, unless you own a car wash (or maybe a giraffe-dentistry business).  But, are they "short" with your customers, because they are simply not capable of being client services people?  Have you hired people with great technical skills and knowledge, then put them into sales positions, instead of hiring great salespeople and giving them the technical training they'll need?  Too often, we see people put in positions of selling, serving customers, and being on the front lines in general, who do not have the personality, skills or training to succeed.

So, Right Size.  Next time you hear this term, hopefully you'll think of it in this way.  But, if you put the wrong people in the wrong jobs, eventually you'll probably have to think about it the other way.      

Things Just Got Really Personal

As technology progresses and things start to get less and less personal, step outside the box and surprise your customers. When was the last time you wrote a letter? Everyone loves getting a personal note, so the next time you’re emailing to just “check-in” and say “thanks”, write a quick note. It’s different, and because it’s not just another email amongst the 3,000 your customers sift through daily, they will remember the gesture.

What else works? Keeping regular phone contact with your customers, within reason, allows them to connect with you personally. Talking, not emailing, through issues/questions/updates/concerns allows your customer get to know you on a personal level and ultimately trust your opinions and suggestions to help them with their business or improve on the service they receive.

In an age where everyone is glued to virtual communication, go retro. Your customers will appreciate it.

What Do Your Communications To Customers Really Say To Them?

I bought a small box of breath mints recently (proactively, of course), and the wrapper instructed me to open the box to see if I had won one of their sweepstakes prizes.  When I opened it, it said, "Sorry, you are not a winner".  So was I now a loser?  I was having a great day up to that point.  I found a mirror, and did my best Stuart Smalley pep-talk, and got back to feeling good about myself.  

What do your communications to customers really say to them?