A new service for a New Year

news: A new service for a New Year

WE HAVE recently noticed that our editorials have all been a little serious of late. Perhaps it is now time for a slightly more relaxed theme. We’ve been bombarding you with facts and figures, performance and politics, rising rates and potential risks, perhaps we should sit back and have a think about what really matters to you.

It’s the beginning of the year and we are looking forward to a good one. So, what are your New Year’s resolutions? It’s always a hot topic around this time, we’re all giving up chocolate and wine, planning trips to the gym three times a week, the nicotine patches come out and we start the New Year healthy and toxin free. Or so we like to think…!

But what should the New Year’s resolutions of the commercial world be? I’m sure we can all think of some good ones. But what I’d like to think about, especially today, is something that everyone craves for in their day-to-day lives – personal service. In all honesty, I’m sure you can all think of a time when you have phoned a help-line and spoken to a machine, been put on hold for 10 minutes, or never been called back after leaving numerous messages. We all have and we all know how frustrating it can be. In an ideal world, you would be able to cut all of this out and always have someone on the other end of a phone ready to talk to you whenever needs be. Unfortunately, this cannot always be the case.

However, good customer service is not impossible. Chris Croft, in an article on customer care, explains value disciplines companies will choose in order to be successful, as discussed in the book The Discipline of Market Leaders by Treacy and Wiersma.The first, he explains, is “Operational Excellence”. This discipline promotes efficiency and a “hassle free service” at the lowest possible cost – you may not see award-winning client relationships, but the job will be done to the customers’ satisfaction. The next value discipline is “Product Leadership”. This is fairly straightforward. The customer knows the product in question is the very best, the top of the range and will always expect the customer service to match the quality of the product.

Last, but of course not least (in fact, my own personal favourite) is “Customer Intimacy”. This offers the customer such personal service that the product can be tailored exactly to the customer’s liking. This service promotes an intimacy that allows the customer to speak to the same person every time they phone. Companies that promote Customer Intimacy tend not to have call centres, automated voice response systems or long queues with devastatingly bad holding music! You can see why I am a fan!

In my mind, the best way of thinking about these value disciplines is with the following analogy: You are getting ready to impress your friends with your culinary skills by holding a small dinner party and you want everything to run as smoothly as possible – specialty bread is on the menu. You could go to Asda (Operational Excellence) because you know they will definitely have something suitable and it will not be expensive. You could go to Harrod’s Food Hall (Product Leadership) and pick up something truly delicious, say a garlic ciabatta stuffed with sundried tomatoes and mozzarella. Or (and again my personal choice), you could pop into the local delicatessen (Customer Intimacy) and ask them to bake you your favourite loaf of walnut and apricot bread, or whatever your favourite might be, especially for the evening. Sorry to talk of such delicious food around this time of dieting and health!

If we take these disciplines into the finance world, the conclusion becomes apparent. For those looking for Customer Intimacy, what you may well be looking for is a Private Bank. In a recent article published in the Daily Telegraph, it is stated that Private Banks “pride themselves on the fact that they offer customers a highly personalised service. Private bankers advise clients on investment strategies tailored to suit their needs”. Within small private banks, you are less likely to become a number, a statistic on a computer screen, and are more likely to get a personal service unique to you. And, contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a millionaire to obtain this personal service.

So, if you are one of the many struggling to differentiate yourself from the numerous clients within a “Big Bank”, perhaps this might be a tempting solution. Everyone deserves to be treated as an individual, whether it is at work, at school, in the supermarket or in your local branch. So speak up, and find that personal service you’ve always been looking for.

• Contact Susan Hart CertPFS, General Manager, Close Private Bank, Almancil.Tel. 289 395 077 e-mail: [email protected]