In one of our recent classes we discussed (as part of ‘Customer Service Quality’ in Retail Banking I) the five dimensions/drivers of perceived customer service quality. These dimensions are reliability, tangibles, assurance, empathy and responsiveness.
Just back from holidays, sitting in my garden with a glass of wine (the same wine, incidentally, as I drank on a lovely French terrace the week before), our lively debate on the importance of ‘tangibles’ for a bank came to mind.
The concept of ‘tangibles’ refers to the physical surroundings (e.g. bank branch) where the service is being delivered. But the idea can also, for instance, be applied to the communication materials being used – or the attire of the bank staff.
With proper research, the relative importance of the five dimensions can be evaluated.
Several, rigorous studies in various countries show a variety of results: for instance, Avkiran’s 1999 study of customer service in branch banking found that staff conduct is an overriding dimension.
Consider the following test evaluation, measuring the perceived quality of a mortgage bank adviser. Sitting in a standard, neutral office, test subjects in the role of customers gave the adviser an overall score of 7 on the quality of advice given (where 10 was excellent and 1 extremely bad). However, hearing the same adviser giving exactly the same advice, but now in a well-designed bank branch office, the ‘customers’ gave a score of 8.4.
These results offer compelling direction on where to invest and to improve: one lesson might be to better design bank interiors rather than send advisers for additional training.
Back to my garden: in France I scored my wine as a 9; one week later, in a less charming environment, my score for the same wine was a somewhat petite 7.
The debate in the classroom will continue: there is no right or wrong, only the customer is always right. Ask and carry out research with your own (potential) customers in your own market; find out the relative importance of the ingredients of customer service quality.
The results of your investigations will give you clear directions on how to enhance your bank’s customer service quality in the most effective way.