The comparison was performed in the retail branches between the hours of 12 pm and 2 pm on a weekday (See note 1 below). This was done to examine the banking experience free of additional customer volume interruption and possible teller fatigue following a long shift. The 5 major Canadian retail banks were compared: TD Canada Trust, RBC Royal Bank, Scotiabank, CIBC and BMO. To eliminate possible differences resulting from customer service at different areas, all the branches visited were in close proximity to one another. Finally, the teller at each of the 5 banks was approached with the same request and follow-up questions: “Hi, I am interested in signing up for a credit card. Could you please tell me about your credit card offerings.”
TD Canada Trust
TD Canada trust branch had a 4-5 person line up and an about equal number of tellers serving the customers. The wait-time was about 10 minutes. When asked to outline the credit card options, the teller provided limited and somewhat disorganized information. She did, however, briefly inquire about the customer needs by asking what was the customer’s current bank, whether the customer was a frequent traveller and what would the primary use of the card be.
TD Canada Trust has discontinued the use of hard copy brochure and offered the credit card comparison only on their website. However, since the customer wanted teller’s advice and an interactive Q&A session in person, the teller printed this information from the website. Without a streamlined process this took considerable effort and time to perform. The teller had to solicit help from other associates and left the customer waiting at the desk for some time, which also held up the line. After the information was finally printed, the teller handed it to the customer but failed to comprehensively outline the most popular credit card options. Furthermore, the printed credit card table was partially cut off and in non-legible format (i.e. small font). The teller failed to narrow down the customer’s choices based on the preferences the customer has communicated. More specifically, the customer has asked teller to circle the 2-3 preferred card offerings for customer to consider at a later point. However, she was polite and apologized for the wait a number of times.
Wait time: 1/5
Customer Needs: 3/5
RBC Royal Bank
The RBC Royal Bank location had about 3 person line-up in the middle of the day and approximately 4 tellers servicing the customers. The line-up went reasonably fast. When the customer inquired about the credit card offerings, the teller asked the customer which bank she currently banked with and whether she had any other credit cards, but did not inquire about the customer’s purposed for the card. The teller then presented a brochure, but did not go into detail regarding which card better suited the customer’s needs. She did not try to cross-sell or really push any products and did not display much enthusiasm in satisfying customer’s needs.
Wait time: 3/5
Customer Needs: 2/5
There was no line-up and the teller was smiling and very friendly. She briefly asked whether the customer was a frequent flier. As in the case of RBC Royal Bank, the teller presented a brochure that she used to explain the various credit card options. The customer felt that the teller was displaying inattentiveness to customer’s needs by repeatedly mentioning the travel card, even after the customer stated that she was not a frequent traveller. However, there was no further pushing into buying the card.
Wait time: 4/5
Customer Needs: 1/5
At the entrance the customer was greeted by a welcoming personnel and offered some coffee. The location had a 3 person line-up and there were 2 representatives servicing customers. When the customer inquired about card offerings with the teller, the welcoming representative approached the customer from the back with a brochure and explained the service offerings. It was a bit confusing why she did this considering the customer was already being serviced by the teller. However, CIBC personnel was enthusiastic to address the customer’s card needs and asked questions. The teller offered to make an appointment with a financial advisor, who would assist in the card sign up process. The information given to the customer was quite thorough and the service was very friendly. The representatives did not try to cross-sell or push any products.
Wait time: 4/5
Customer Needs: 3/5
The BMO location had a 2 person line-up and2 tellers plus an information desk representative servicing the customers. As soon as the information desk representative became available she approached the customer and offered her help.Upon the request to outline BMO credit card options, the teller did not ask any questions and proceeded to provide a brochure. Like at other banks, this teller failed to circle the card choices she recommended to the customer. However, in comparison to TD Canada Trust, BMO representative was more clear in outlining those more suitable options. Again, the customer did not feel that the representative was trying to cross-sell or push the product. However, the teller did not display interest or enthusiasm in addressing customer needs.
Across all banks, none of the tellers were able to help the customer narrow down the choices. The experience left the customer confused and not wanting to get any card. Brochures were helpful in providing the information, however they were also somewhat confusing due to an overwhelming amount of information and available choices.
Wait time: 3/5
Recommendations: how to improve client experience
Overall, a few patters and improvement opportunities emerged as a result of this experience. First, it seems that the branch retailer locations are not properly incentivized and/or interested in selling credit card products to prospective customers. To boost credit card sales, tellers could benefit from a streamlined process for assessing and segmenting customer needs. This could be achieved by utilizinga simple tool (e.g. a flow chart, decision matrix, online questionnaire) that identifies customer needs and preferences through a set of yes/no question. Once customer preferences and needs are identified, the teller would then align their recommendations with the most suitable credit card product.
Second, tellers need to be trained to be more knowledgeable and show enthusiasm by actively offering cards and working with the customer to find the best suitable option. This could include being more upfront with advice and being more familiar with the credit card brochures. Narrowing the choices down with the help from the teller would lead to higher sale penetration and better overall client experience.
While it is important to recognize that more and more customers are applying for cards online, the traditional retail channels need to ensure that they can continue servicing customers at the branches. This includes presence of knowledgeable employees and relevant information such as well-designed hardcopies of brochures.
Note 1: The output of the study is illustrative of one customer experience and may not give a true representation of the customer experience in aggregate. The study is not meant to favour one financial institution over another.