Gaining Customer Trust – Part III: Lean on Me
In Part I of our series on customer trust, we presented the three pillars of building customer trust. Today’s post ties in with the third pillar – delivering what you say you will and keeping your promises. Consider this example:
A woman is grocery shopping after work and wheels her cart, filled to the brim with a week’s worth of food for her family, to the check out line. The cashier methodically scans each & every item, packs them into paper bags and gives the woman her total bill. She offers her prepaid card as payment and is told her card is not working. She doesn’t have a bank account and has no cash because she loaded it all onto the card for added convenience & security. After holding up the check-out line while the cashier re-attempted authorization a couple more times, the woman steps aside – embarrassed and exasperated. She calls the number on the back of the card and is told by the customer service rep that they are experiencing technical difficulties. “We apologize for the inconvenience. You can re-attempt your transaction shortly and see if it will go through.”
The woman’s card provider let her down. They embarrassed her. They wasted her time. She expected to be able to access her money whenever she needed it and they didn’t deliver that for her. Perhaps she will continue to use the card. But she will never forget this event and it will forever taint her view of the card provider. And if it happens to her again on another occasion? Forget it – she will be gone forever.
For banks, program managers and others delivering financial services, this scenario illustrates the importance of service reliability. We’re talking about people’s money here – your systems have got to be working 24x7x365. And with today’s technology and production best practices, there really is no excuse for poor availability. Because it takes a network of partners to be “always-on”, it is vital that companies examine not only their own systems but perform thorough due diligence on their partners.
Here are few questions to ask yourself and your partners to ensure top-notch service availability:
What does your production environment (and those of your partners) look like? Examine the design carefully to ensure that there is redundancy at every level, automatic fail-over and all of the other standard production best practices in place.
What kind of data centers are handling the production? Are they suitable for processing financial and other sensitive transactions? Partners should allow you to tour the centers upon request. Sometimes you have to actually see it to be comfortable.
What is the service track record? For what percentage was the system available over the past year? Using the latest designs, monitoring tools and processes, you and your partners should be able to obtain at least 99% up-time.
Will your partners agree to Service Level Agreements (SLAs)? Or at the very least, provide you with sufficient availability data for other clients? If not, that speaks volumes about the confidence they have in their production environment. Partners get bonus points if they will agree to SLAs in writing and even more points if they agree to pay penalties for an SLA miss.
Find out what parts of your partners’ services & products are delivered by 3rd parties and how a service interruption by the 3rd party can impact you & your customers. It’s best to choose partners who deliver their products & services directly because this reduces your chances of having a service disruption.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start thinking through these issues. Companies that do the leg work to build a reliable service that is always there for customers will be rewarded with one of the most valuable assets in business: customer trust.