Customer service

Date of publication: June 15, 1994


Financial institutions have been forced to adapt from sales driven organisations to a customer focused operating culture in order to survive - although the process of adaptation is far from complete, and has not been painless. The problem is that determining what the customer wants is more difficult in financial services than in other industries, because the products are often complex and long term. Customers may have clearly defined expectations of a branch based retail banking service, but they find it difficult if not impossible to define the standards of service they expect when they buy a life policy or personal pension plan - because they do not understand the products they are buying. Yet customer retention is vitally important to the life and pensions industry, since cancelled policies signal lost profits. The aim of customer service therefore is to build and maintain confidence in the institution and thus ensure retention for the long term. It is unnecessary for customers to define the standards of service they expect, the only relevant consideration is whether commumcations between institution and customer have the effect of increasing or decreasing confidence, and hence prospects for customer retention. A survey for TSB Life and Pensions used multivariate analysis to infer the relationship between customer service and confidence, distinguishing those service attributes that are critical to maintaining customer confidence from those that appear to have little or no influence. Once confidence is accepted as the long term goal of customer service, a strategic framework can be established to review each service attribute against its contribution to the key confidence index.

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