One must make a habit to learn from whatever experience can be gained during the course of each day. My new employer requires employees to open accounts at the Faysal Bank (this one is located in Garden Town, Lahore). So I made my way there this morning to face customer service hell.
Here are five online business lessons I learned from my visit:
Their business is a privilege
Banks do not open a new account unless you can prove that you are socially acceptable and thus make available a reference who has an account with the same branch. It is just like getting into a club or emailing friends for invites to a particularly hot startup.
Faysal Bank Limited wanted me to deposit Rs. 5,000 in order to open my account. I had a check with me worth many times more than that, and my employer would be depositing a significant amount every month. But thats just not good enough for Faysal bank.
Do not charge for the privilege of gaining your customer’s/client’s business. I do not even prefer to get any more information than their email (for unique id) and password (for access to your system, only if necessary). Allow them to be comfortable, let them in to see what you have to offer. Offer reminders to add to their profile by showing how it will enhance their experience.
Show them the way
I new there was going to be trouble as soon as I became a ping pong ball between two bank employees who could not decide where I should go to get my account opened. I was new in the environment and it was annoying. All I needed was clear direction. If the bank had any sign pointing me to the right person, I would not have felt like leaving.
First time visitors to your online business feel exactly the same. They come with a mix of expectation and curiosity. If you can not show them how to do what they want to achieve in the first few, precious minutes of acquisition, they are going to walk straight out of there by clicking the back button.
Perform A/B, multivariate testing and engage sample of users in pre-launch surveys to see just how they react when the reach your home page. It is going to save you a lot of bad word of mouth later on. Also, do not over burden them with too much information. Introduce and establish your tips / help methodology early on and provide just enough information for them to be productive.
Quality over quantity
I spent some 50 odd minutes in the bank today. Most of the time was spent sitting at the desk of this lady who had her attention solely and unequivocally on the phone in her hand. It was like I was watching some Star Plus soap. Apparently she was in conversation (she thought in hushed tones) with her fiance/husband about her nature and that of his family members. There was talk of leaving the job and/or studies and how some things were just not acceptable to her. There was no eye contact, no attention to my repetitive time checks and at one point, she wrote some one else’s name on the deposit form for my initial 5,000 rupees. She was on the phone when I was guided to her desk. She was on the phone when her colleague left his client to see why I had been sitting there for so long. I would like to thank the gentleman for his service.
The point is, average time on page is a metric touted by web analysts every where. It measures how long did a visitor stay at a particular page. It does not tell any thing about the quality of the stay. Is the visitor confused about what to do next? Is she trying to figure out what she can from cluttered information? Are her expectations and needs being met? Check to see if visitors are spending too much time on a few pages. Let visitors tell you about the possible issue by prominently placing feedback mechanisms.
Reliable and repeatable processes
At one point of time, she received a document for signature verification. It did not seem to her that it is an important step in the banking process. The whole idea is to make sure that transactions remain secure and reliable. The lady signed the verification without having a look via her computer or the customary bank sign cards. Couple that with the software system being ‘down’, which later turned out to be an internee’s misinterpretation, I now have severe doubts about the security of my deposit and the reliability of the bank’s processes.
This applies specially to online businesses. Monetary transactions are not the only issue here. Expectations are similar when it comes to data. It can be personal, professional, earned(like points or reviews) or business. The processes that you set up should be reliable and repeatable. If there is manual input at any step the customer should be made aware of such and proper security measures should be in place. No need to say such measures should have checks of their own. For God sake do not sell customer profiles or even worse, loose it.
My new account must have been created by now. I will receive a welcome letter in a couple of days. It has been an experience, that I’ll say. The output of my interaction, a check book and an ATM card will be arriving soon. Not really, I will have to visit the bank 5 days from now to pick up the check book and again in 10 days to pick up my ATM card. Why are they doing this to me and what horror will I face the next time.
They will have already confirmed my postal address by sending me the welcome letter. It could have easily been couriered for confirmation. They could have asked me to email them some key number from the welcome letter. Instead they want me to bring the letter to them twice in 10 days to get what I could have gotten sitting at home.
How you choose to continue your relationship with the customer is a fundamental question. There are many flavors. Some banks have account managers. Warid Telecom has a specific person who calls me every month to ask if I am happy with the service level and to get fresh idea of my needs. Other companies make it obvious and easy for me to get in touch whenever there is an issue.
Your customer should only visit you in case she wants repeat business, or you have impressed her enough to try another of your products or services. Every one loves pushed data when its contextual. If she has an order, push her information about its approval status, payment processing and delivery status. Do not make the customer come to you for information that should have been provided already.
Give your business, the suppliers, vendors, customers and visitors your wholehearted and unrelenting attention. Make them feel the most important people in your life. Success of a business is in the strong footprint of the entrepreneur.