The sales and service equation

In a retail banking environment, one of the key strategic choices that senior managers consistently struggle with is: ‘Which parts of the organisation focus on sales and which parts focus on service?’ This debate occurs regardless of segments, products and/or channels. For example, these questions could be asked: What does a Mass Affluent Relationship Manager focus on? Are there certain types of products that lend themselves easier to selling? What role does a call centre have?

As a former retail banking executive who ran both sales and service for a large retail bank in Europe, I refer to the following phrase as a key starting point: ‘the best sales is good service and the best service is identifying and providing what a customer truly needs’. Therefore, the answer to the question raised here is a combination of both sales and service.

However, in today’s highly competitive and cost-cutting environment, focus is key. As retail bankers, we cannot simply throw resources at all issues. Over-servicing is not good for banks and it is not good for customers either (believe it or not!). Therefore, getting the equation right – the appropriate blend of sales and service – is what will separate the best from the rest. How does a retail banking organization do this?

To ensure the appropriate mix of sales and service, I would suggest the business employ a simple tool. On one axis, the lifetime value of the customer, on the other, the level of personalized interaction provided. While we service across all channels, direct service contact is the most powerful. For our best customers, self-service should be an option but only at their choosing. For less profitable customers, self-service is mandatory. Therefore, the customer segment should drive this decision from a strategic perspective. From an execution point of view, clear job roles with clearly defined sales and service responsibilities, effective reward mechanisms, and a clear ‘choreography’ on how interactions occur amongst different roles and channels are the key drivers of getting the mix right.

Plot all your segments effectively on this ‘sales and service matrix’, staff up and train well, keep messages and experience across multiple channels similar by segment – and you have the winning formula!

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