Using customer service to position a business
A first direct case study

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Page 2: What is customer service?

Customer service is the service provided to customers before, during and after purchasing and using goods and services. Good customer service provides an experience that meets customer expectations. It produces satisfied customers. Bad customer service can generate complaints. It can result in lost sales, because consumers might take their business to a competitor.

Good customer service involves developing bonds with customers, hopefully leading to longterm relationships. It creates advantages for both customers and the business alike. Customers benefit because the business is providing a service that meets their needs. The business benefits because satisfied customers are likely to be repeat customers. They will stay with the business. However, good customer service is not easily achieved. It takes time to establish. It requires investment to deliver consistent standards.

first direct 's mission statement is 'pioneering amazing service'. This means that customer service is used to set the direction for the business. In other words, customers come first. This is not an empty slogan. Market research shows that, in terms of customer satisfaction, first direct is the UK's number one bank. It confirms that the bank has a reputation for quality customer service. This has also been demonstrated by comparative studies. The bank was the leading performer in the Top 50 Call Centres for Customer Service benchmarking programme and it came top in the Finance Sector in the Institute of Customer Services (ICS) Satisfaction Awards.

At the heart of providing customer service is the notion of 'respect'. This involves respecting the business' employees, as internal customers within the organisation, as well as external customers. Using this concept influences how colleagues and individuals at first direct act towards each other as well as how they deal with customers.

To achieve customer satisfaction, first direct sets and monitors service standards. For example, four out of five calls are answered within 20 seconds. On average a customer's call is answered in 13 seconds. Customer service representatives are available around the clock. This means that customers always get to talk to a real person not a machine and they never have to push buttons before they get to talk to someone.

The focus in all operations is on providing quality customer service. This helps first direct in the marketplace. It means that even though it is an online bank, it can provide a personal service missing in many other banks. The intention has been to avoid becoming a faceless call centre. Individuals are well trained and are empowered to act on customer issues. This means that customers are not passed from one person to another. The same customer representative will phone to deal with an issue, so that the customer is not always dealing with different individuals. In this way, first direct gets to know its customers. It can even provide a personal touch, like occasionally sending flowers to a customer or their partner to mark a birthday.

To maintain these standards first direct identifies what customers expect from banks in terms of customer service provision. It then builds these customer expectations into the services it provides. For example, this involves:

  • ensuring first direct colleagues are courteous and informed that they know about the bank's products and services
  • dealing with any complaints promptly and fairly
  • following up sales
  • offering informed guidance on any products that are available (subject to financial regulations).

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first direct | Using customer service to position a business