Can Your Frontline Recover?

This entry was posted by Tuesday, 3 August, 2010
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I’m sure something like this has happened to you – a negative experience with a company that could have been saved so easily.

Last week my daughter developed pink eye after our normal pharmacy was already closed so I was sent to the other pharmacy in our area.  The pharmacist mistakenly declared there was no co-pay for the purchase and sent us on our way.  A few days later, I received an angry phone call from someone else at the pharmacy who was shocked that this mistake had happened. They went on to slam the poor guy that made the mistake, and demanded I come in immediately to pay for the prescription.  So back to the pharmacy I went.  I had to explain the situation to four different employees and wait for 45 minutes while they discussed how to proceed right in front of me.  Turns out their system couldn’t accept my $10.00 at this point due to how the initial mistake was entered. Again, they mentioned how stupid the first guy must have been and now the person that called me was an idiot in their eyes too.  Eventually, they agreed that I had waited long enough and it was time to let the $10.00 go.  They apologized for the inconvenience and sent me on my way. 

There were a few opportunities throughout this whole ordeal that the negative experience could have been turned around, but those opportunities were wasted.  Finally, waiving the co-pay could be viewed as a last ditch effort to save the interaction, but it was too late – the amount of time I ended up wasting with this pharmacy and how negative they made me feel certainly won’t be forgotten. 

Parts of this experience could have possibly been blamed on just one of the employees or even attributed randomly to the circumstances – but the whole experience had me really questioning this particular company and even more specifically their lack in arming their front-line staff with the training and tools necessary for recovery.   Studies show that some of the strongest customer loyalty comes not from smooth customer service experiences but from those times when something went wrong and the company did a stellar job in making things right.  

According to Celeste Cook, President/CEO of cuSrategies and opening keynoter for this year’s CUNA FUSE “Frontline staff is the face of your institution.  They have mega influence on whether you prosper, earn client loyalty, and develop new relationships.  Everything frontline employees do and say or don’t do and say impacts growth and retention.”  Cook shared these insights about the connection between employees and growth and retention in a recent article for Branch Manager’s Letter.  She goes on to state that “The touch points and opportunities afforded frontline staff to build and strengthen client relationships are far greater and have a far greater impact on growth and retention than any other delivery channel.”

With frontline staff at credit unions playing such an important role it is imperative that they be ready to handle all member interactions, even the really negative ones, as an opportunity for growth.  What about the frontline staff at your credit union?

  •  Do they see the importance of the job they are doing and how strongly that can impact the success of your credit union? 
  •  Have they been provided with adequate training? 
  •  Are they rewarded for exemplary service to members? 
  •  Are they empowered to do what is necessary to turn a negative member experience into a positive opportunity for the credit union?

I’m hoping that the answer is yes to most of the above questions, if not, what are you doing to ensure a simple $10.00 transaction doesn’t turn in to the loss of a loyal member?

8 Responses to “Can Your Frontline Recover?”

  1. Hey friends in CU land – we have a contest going on right now where you can win 2 registrations to CUNA FUSE 2010: An Institute for Branch Managers and Business Development Professionals. All you have to do is tell us how your credit union has aligned or is planning to align business development and branch management. Enter so you can hopefully join me in San Antonio and hear more from Celeste Cook, who is quoted in this blog post. Please help spread the word about the contest: http://www.cuna.org/training/on_site/FUSTN10_contest.html

  2. This post really fired me up for two reasons:
    1. “What does the customer/member need, and how can I provide it?” is the question we train all of our staff to use when addressing both good and bad service situations. Our branch leadership team regularly monitors chat, web, and other feedback channels for any negative member comments. They then proactively follow up with those dissatisfied members to find ways to rebuild the relationship. It takes time, yes, but it embodies the type of service that we promised to deliver when the member became one of our owners.

    2. It’s maddening, yet sadly familiar, that the pharmacy staff slammed another member of their team as part of their service recovery strategy. That should never be done. It’s amateurish and disrespectful for everyone involved. Professionals focus on providing solutions, not assigning blame. Nobody wins when we fight amongst ourselves.

    Thanks for such a thought-provoking post!

  3. Michelle

    What is also disturbing is how the employees treated each other. It’s easy to see how a customer is treated disrespectfully when there is that much disrespect among the staff members.

  4. @Andy – That’s such a simple yet effective question to train your staff to use for ALL service situations. So great to hear that you have systems in place to mirror the service promise you are making to your members. As for your point about how the staff slammed their team and @Michelle in response to how they treated each other – that was what was most upsetting to me. I had interactions with multiple people – from pharmacy techs, a pharmacist and a store manager – and each of them placed blame on other members of their team and on me. It was so upsetting to see an entire team act that way. It defiintely seems to point to a larger problem with their corporate culture.

  5. This is a touchy subject for me. I am very sensitive to poor service, because usually it can be chalked up to somebody not being motivated to do a good job. They figure this is work… all I have to do is enough not to get fired. I believe people should do the right thing in a service situation and that is to go above and beyond to make people happy… but that is besides the point. The real question here is how do we motivate our front line staff to do a good job? @Meghann, I think you nailed it. Training/incentives/accountability. This is the triple threat. Managing, monitoring, and motivating is the hard part, but it can be done!

  6. @Chad – you’ve touched on something that I think is so hard to overcome – people that do just enough to not get fired. So on top of the managing, monitoring and motivating – I think it’s also very important to hire the right people in the first place. That whole hire the smile, train the skills mantra is something I fully believe in. Thanks for your comment!

  7. Claudine Oriani

    Great insights from all! In a time of tough economic realities, it is so crucial to retain the customers you already serve as the replacement cost of getting new members is much greater. It doesn’t matter how good your “brand” or “tag line” is, ultimately; each team member must live your value promise through every member interaction. Can’t wait to discuss this in greater detail at the FUSE Institute in October. I am eager to help all CU participants in finding creative ways of engaging their employees and clarifying their “value promise” to their members during this event. Thanks Meaghann for letting me take part in this awesome event. See you in San Antonio, ya”all!

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