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Your Service May Be Stellar, But Don’t Overlook the Outlier Experience

September 24, 2014

By Kip Sweeney, Vice President Client Relations at FMSI

You probably know the feeling.

A sense of disappointment when the meal at your favorite restaurant doesn’t taste as fantastic as it always has. In fact, if you were to plot all of your experiences at this particular eatery on an XY-Chart, most of the data points would be close together in a ‘good-to-excellent’ range with one particular experience off on its own. I call this the ‘outlier experience.’

In the realm of financial institution branches, well-intending organizations often pay a great deal of attention to the average service experience, but sometimes turn a blind eye to the unusual. This approach could be costing them much more than they think.

If I manage a busy branch and most of my customers are served within 5-7 minutes, there’s a strong likelihood there will be a few people (outliers) who have to wait 10, 12 or maybe even 15 minutes in some unique cases. While a 5-minute wait time may be okay in my organization, a 15-minute wait is not. You might be thinking, “Kip, nobody’s perfect. Why be so concerned about a couple of unusual experiences?” Well, in addition to typically leaving negative feedback about their experience, visitors who have had a less-than-pleasant experience tend to find other providers for the same service—even if the terms aren’t as attractive.

Stated succinctly by one of FMSI’s clients, ”If one of our account holders who waited considerably longer than average recalls the 20 minute-wait they encountered in my branch the last time they needed an auto-loan, and today they’re at the car dealer being offered a slightly higher rate, but with no wait, they’ll take the loan from the dealer in a heartbeat.“

How are organizations managing ‘outlier experiences to prevent situations like the car dealership one’? Here are three steps I’ve seen implemented successfully in the last few months by several of our clients.

First, ask the question, “How long should a visitor ever have to wait to be served?” Incorporate your response into a service goal and support the goal with appropriate staffing levels to meet it. A branch manager at a large northeastern credit union recently described their wait time threshold as follows, “We don’t ever want our members waiting more than 10 minutes.”

Second, evaluate the success of your goal. It’s helpful if you have information from a lobby management system like FMSI’s Omnix Lobby Tracker™ to get answers to these questions:

  • “Are there visitors waiting longer than we consider to be acceptable?”
  • “How many visitors waited above goal?”
  • “Who are the visitors who waited above goal?”

Lastly, remedy the situation. Contact those individuals who have had an ‘outlier experience’, thank them for their loyalty/business and assure them your organization is putting measures in place to improve wait times. The follow-up call shows a commitment to the visitor experience and presents the organization with an opportunity to recover the visitor’s loyalty.

A quick glance of a consumer site like Yelp, reveals how the ‘outlier experience’ is not to be underestimated. It’s 10:00 PM, do you know where your outliers are?

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