Customer experience at 40,000 feet

If your business model depends on great service, you have undoubtedly spent time considering the customer experience. With money essentially a commodity, it is the customer experience that separates your bank from others. 

Bill Lentsch was responsible for the customer experience when he was a senior executive at Delta Air Lines. He recently addressed the Bank Holding Company Association’s Fall Seminar, describing what it took to give some 200 million customers per year a great experience, even during the pandemic. He shared three keys, which I believe can be useful to bankers who might also be looking to deliver great customer experiences.

First, collect as much data as possible. Delta surveys customers all the time and responses are processed and tabulated quickly. Then, key data points are routed to appropriate employees almost instantly. If a customer on the flight from Chicago in row 5, seat C complains on a survey about a grumpy flight attendant, that attendant sees the complaint before their next flight leaves. If that passenger doesn’t like the selection of in-flight movies, you can bet flight services hears about it.  

Second, Delta gave customers what they said they wanted, even if it didn’t make a significant practical difference. For example, during the pandemic, Delta gave passengers antiseptic wipes to clean their own arm rests, seat-back tray and video screen; survey data indicated customers overwhelmingly wanted wipes, even though the CDC said the virus wasn’t likely to be transmitted via germs on hard surfaces. Delta also suspended the sale of middle-seat tickets longer than other airlines, even though that suppressed revenue. In the long run, however, Lentsch said it solidified customer loyalty among people who perceived Delta to be more focused on customer comfort than competitors.

And third, Lentsch said: “Hire people with the DNA for service.” The best customer service is delivered by the people who want to deliver it. Customer service can be taught, he said, but is best when offered instinctively. 

In summary, survey customers frequently to obtain feedback on your service. Digital service delivery has greatly expanded the capability of banks to survey customers. Then, put the results in the hands of the employees who can use them. Second, give customers what they want. For example, keep offering bank-by-mail envelopes, wall calendars and safe deposit boxes even if you think those amenities are outdated. If people are asking for them, keep offering them. And third, put your best effort into hiring appropriately.