· 2 min read · Features

We can’t train people to want to give great service, so we recruit for attitude – and train for skills

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When we launched Metro Bank on 29 July last year, our aim was to create a bank customers loved. We called it ‘Love your bank at last’ and told the world (or at least UK media) we wanted to create fans, not customers.

for savers and the lowest rate for borrowers?

Our belief was that customers wanted a better banking experience. They were fed up with the service (or lack of it) from their existing bank and wanted a bank that treated them well. So that's what we set out to give them.

There are two key elements to our business proposition.

One is convenience. Customers have got used to being able to shop when, where and how they like, be it going into a store for a TV on a Saturday, going to their supermarket for their groceries on a Sunday, or shopping online late one evening. So why don't their banks offer them the same convenience? That is why every Metro Bank store is open from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm Saturday and 11am to 5pm Sunday. And we don't call our branches stores by accident; it is because we think as a retailer, and great retailers are open when their customers want them to be.

The other is great service. Easy to describe, but very difficult to deliver. We think great service is a sustainable point of differentiation, but to deliver it you have got to:

1) Find great people who want to deliver great service

2) Train them

3) Reward them appropriately

4) Empower them

We interviewed 3,500 people for our first 60 customer-facing roles. We were looking for one thing in particular: people who smiled. As co-founder Vernon Hill once remarked: "If they aren't going to smile at their job interview, when are they going to smile?" We can train people in the technical aspects of banking, but we can't train them to want to give great service, so we recruit for attitude - and train for skills.

And we reward colleagues for giving great service. None of them have sales targets, none of them receive bonuses or commissions. Many banks do both and what do you get if you motivate people to sell things? More than 11,000 complaints about UK banks every day.

Guess what happens if you reward people for giving great service? Well, for us it's a 94% customer satisfaction rate, with eight out of 10 customers saying they would recommend us to a friend.

Last, but not least, staff need to be empowered to give great service. However, one of the biggest challenges we find is having them fully appreciate that they are empowered. Many have come from organisations that claimed to want to give good service, but - when the moment of truth arrives - were not prepared to do what it takes: having your employees understand that, when it comes to satisfying the customer, they are empowered to do what it takes.

How do we know if we are delivering a great customer experience? Well, we measure it, constantly. We 'mystery shop' every store every other day. We have a panel of customers who give us feedback. We invite every customer to give us feedback.

For us, it is all about exceeding our customers' expectations, about creating fans, not customers.

Anthony Thomson is co-founder and chairman of Metro Bank