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Banks have no idea how to cross-sell

An interesting little survey came out this month, looking at the fact
that banks do not cross-sell effectively through their call centres.
The truth is that most banks do not cross-sell effectively full stop. 

have had the pitch from the teller in the branch who asks me whether I would be
interested in a loan or mortgage as I pay in a cheque.  To be honest, I
would rather walk across broken glass in bare feet than talk to a
teller about mortgages. 

It is not that I do not like tellers or anything, it is more to do with:

(a) that I am in a rush;
(b) I am only in the branch to do one thing – pay in a cheque; and
(c) I don’t want to talk to an administrator about my complex financial dealings.

After all, tellers have been hired, trained and coached to be just transactional administrators haven’t they? 

They certainly have been historically.  They have been trained
to be box-ticking, button-pushing engines.  So how a bank’s management
team suddenly expects these low-paid transaction engines to transform
overnight into super-duper, extrovert, commission-based sales people,
is a shocker.  A bit like trying to make a pig fly isn’t it?   

we go to the call centre and you find the same thing.  I’m ringing the
call centre to check a balance, process a request or ask a question.
Normally, the call centre person is either efficiently capable of
processing my transaction or, for more complex discussions, they refer
me back to my branch manager.

“Is there anything else I can help you with sir?”   

sure.  I would like you to hold my hand and explain how 30 year annuity
bonds work, in terms of increasing my overall value towards my pension,
and whether this is a tax efficient method of saving for retirement or
whether I should look at fund of funds or other savings vehicles.”

“Sorry, sir, I didn’t quite catch that.  Did you say something about your birthday?  Happy 30th birthday sir.”

"Actually, I’m after someone who can talk to me about a pension.  Is that clear enough?"

"Ah, yessir," says the agent getting excited now as bonus times are ahead, "I can make an appointment for you with our pensions manager on the 30th of never in the branch you only visit to pay cheques into."

Apparently, they cannot deal with me on the telephone because it needs an expert, for regulatory reasons.  "Because he’s certified", the agent throws in helpfully.

"What?  You mean you have to be legally insane to sell pensions?" I ponder.

"No sir.  He’s been certified by the bank to recognise he’s had the training to sell, sorry advise you about pensions sir."

Ah well, that makes sense, so I go onto the internet and sign into my account.   

got money sitting in the account just languishing.  It’s just lying on
it’s back and going, “Look at me, you loser.  I’m not earning any
interest.  I’m not doing anything actually.  I’m just sitting in your
deposit account and lolling about, you waste of space.  Do something
with me, won’t you?”         

Has the bank put an ad in there
saying, “make your balance work harder for you?”  Can I see a note
anywhere, pointing an arrow at my balance and saying, “we can make sure
this earns you cash whilst it’s sitting there?”  If there is, then it’s
totally invisible.  But then, my internet banking service is just a
reflection of the core processing system which administers my account,
as in it focuses upon transactions, not sales.

So I finally go into the branch on 30th of never and meet the hi-follutin’ pensions manager, or is that salesman.

"Why did I need to see you", I ask politely.  That’s a good start isn’t it?

"Because I’m certified", he grimaces back.

"I heard, but it doesn’t mean you’re mad does it?" I ask jokingly.

"Actually, I am sir."  He says deadly serious.

Jaw drops to floor as this is not a good start to the meeting.

Then he breaks into a smile and says, "we all have to be a little mad to work at this bank". 

Not sure whether he was being honest, ironic, ambiguous or all three, I ask again, "so why do I have to see you?"

"I’m sorry sir, I don’t understand."

Seemed like a clear enough question to me. 

"Why do I have to see you.  Why can’t we do this over the telephone or internet", I ask again.

"Oh yes.  Well, you see it’s for regulatory reasons", he’s now getting all serious.  "For regulatory reasons, I have to see you so that you can fill these forms out in triplicate, sign here and that way I can then say I know you and I’ve found out all the facts I need to know about you."

"Blimey", I gulp, "not very twenty-first century is it?"

"Well sir, we don’t want to move too fast into the future do we.  After all, how can I sell you … ahem, advise you about a pension if I don’t see the whites of your eyes?"


He then takes me through all of the in’s and out’s of a pension. 

After an hour, I’ve filled in twenty-eight pages of inside leg measurements and mother’s maiden names and we shake hands.

"So, there you have it.  The stitch-you-up-for-life, never-have-a-spare-penny, hope-you-live-long-enough-to-use-it, made-me-a-nice-earner pension."

"I’ll take it", I say.

"OK. We’ll get this in the post to you in the next few days, and you then have two weeks to think about it."

"What?  Post?  Two weeks?  I want it now!" I’m always impatient.

"Ah well, by law I have to give you two weeks to think about it, and I have to put it in the post because our bank won’t let me email documentation to you."  He looks worried now, as he’s about to lose a sale.

"OK, I’ll think about it.  Meantime, do you have anything that can make my money earn interest in my deposit account."

"Oh yes sir."

So, I walk out of the bank with a brand spanking new deposit account that’s been upgraded from no-interest, to low-interest with a free credit card and overdraft facility.

For the bank, they count this as yes, I’ve been cross-sold two extra products.  The deposit account plus a credit card and a loan.  After all, by overdraft facility they actually mean loan.  So the bank counts me as holding three products: a deposit account, credit card and loan. 

The thing is, I see these as all being only one thing – a deposit account.  They may count it as three, but I count it as one, and I can close down one product relationship with them very easily.

The true cross-sell, the pension, cannot be sold for regulatory and
internal structural reasons.  And yet, this is the one product I wanted
to buy, and the one product that would hold me to the bank for life,
and probably death.

The real bottom-line is that banks have
grown up focused upon transactions, payments, money transmissions.
Therefore, they sell transaction products.  To make them retailers with real sales pizazz, and advisory high net worth solutions, is darned
tough.  But there is definitely an opportunity here for banks:

(a) if they want to use branches to cross-sell, then make sure there’s
someone who is trained to talk to the customer about complex finances
inside that branch, or available via a videolink there and then, rather
than prompting tellers to embarrassingly beg the question: “would you
like a mortgage with that cheque deposit today sir?”;

(b) do the
same with the call centre so that if an agent says, “can I help you
with anything else” that they can immediately refer the customer to a
specialist who is competent in complex finances and not say “oh, we
will need to make an appointment for that sort of request sir, can you
come into the branch in a fortnight?”; and

(c) start using
internet channels to point out the inefficiencies of my deposits and withdrawals, proactively highlight how  I could be more efficient, make
automated offers that relate to analysis of my transactions and

Anyway, back to that survey

was released by Maritz who came up with startling stats like: 73% of
customers listened to a product pitch as they called into the contact
centre, but only 31% remember hearing it. 

The reason I
liked the survey though, was that the American participants were asked
to chose their favourite celebrity call centre host and here they are:   

  • 23% chose Oprah Winfrey (chat show queen);
  • 19% wanted Kelly Ripa (Regis’s sidekick on daytime TV);
  • 10% voted for Bill Clinton (Hilary’s sidekick);
  • 9% for Ellen DeGeneres (famous for the Ellen DeGeneres Show!); and
  • 9% for Bill Gates (what?!).

Meanwhile, less than 1% voted for Britney Spears.   Maybe that does show that the plea to LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE is working. 

About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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