Are Great Customer Experiences > Efficiency?

I visited my bank recently – yep, I’m one of those people who still like face to face interactions. I needed to do more than an online transition would allow and the visit inside allowed me to observe an interesting dilemma facing customer service professionals today.

I was there during the lunch hour; there was a line of customers waiting to be served; and there were only two tellers behind the counter.  To my delight, a woman from an adjacent office saw the line of waiting customers and stepped in to take any cash transactions.  Left in the line were the folks (including me) who needed to talk to the teller to complete our request. And that’s where I witnessed this interesting dilemma.

Each teller tried to create a personable experience with each customer – give them time needed to answer questions, provide some brief personal dialogue – yet also complete the transaction as quickly as possible so they could service the next waiting customer.

This creates the big question:  

Are customer experiences greater than efficiency?

Does one outweigh the other?  At times, perhaps.  But consider how both matter to your customer.

For these particular bank professionals I could see the awareness of their faces.  They tried to make a personal connection with each customer yet balance that exchange delicately against the clock.  I recognized this but I wondered if every customer in the line had the same thoughts or were they waiting impatiently to hear “Next in line please.”

It is an interesting dilemma and in an age where the customer is king, businesses must get this right to ensure those customers keep coming back.  Yes, effectiveness and efficiency must co-exist in your business; but how do you help your employees understand what this means to your brand?

Regardless of the goods or services your business provides, consider these three principles:

Define your Customer Experience – what experience do you want your customer to have with each interaction in your business?  Does the personal touch matter?  And if so, what does that mean?  Do you want to know your customers by name and with a step further know something about them?  Is quick and easy with a touch of friendly more important?  Or perhaps, your desired experience is somewhere in the middle. Whatever it is requires a specific definition from you.

Teach Awareness Skills – Because efficiency and effectiveness must co-exist, your employees must understand how to navigate that balance.  Is there a desired time limit with each customer?  And if so, how do they monitor the clock?  How do they remain engaged with the customer in front of them yet be mindful and perhaps even comment to a waiting customer?  These behaviors are business skills. And done well, they bridge the gap between the scales of great experiences and efficiency.

Coach to Excellence – These customer experience skills are not typically “natural” for most employees.  And that means to maintain these skills they must be coached.  This element of customer service skill is a critical success indicator and leads to the emotions, thoughts and perceptions customers have about your business.  And they lead to comments like, “I love banking with XYZ Community Bank. Regardless of how busy they are, I always feel like I’m their only customer.  I don’t know how they do it.” 

And now back to my banking experience.  When my turn arrived, the teller was quick to apologize for my wait and just as quickly as she began creating my unique customer experience.  Success. 

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