It didn’t take long for Casey Jones’ customer to notice something had changed since her last visit to the Wells Fargo branch in Dripping Springs, Texas.
This time, she wasn’t greeted by team members with a litany of scripted questions she considered irrelevant to her visit. She wasn’t asked to fill out another long financial priorities worksheet. She had a conversation about the things important to her.
The difference was so noticeable she asked Jones about it.
“I told her that a lot can happen in seven months,” Jones said, as he talked to his customer about her needs that day as well as her financial goals.
Similar reports have emerged from other branches that have been testing changes led by Customer and Branch Experience Leader Laurey Cosentino to transform the branch experience for customers and team members.
After months of pilot testing, the first wave of changes launched in every Wells Fargo branch Sept. 22 — with a second wave to follow early next year.
“These improvements reflect the progress we’re making to rebuild trust, take accountability for our past mistakes, and create an environment where our customers and team members feel valued and supported,” said Mary Mack, head of Community Banking.
‘This is a marathon, not a sprint’
Based on feedback from every level in the Community Bank, and part of Wells Fargo’s overall effort to build a better bank and restore trust after last fall’s unacceptable retail sales practices, the changes follow the elimination of product sales goals, the move to a new compensation program based on the customer experience, and the strengthening of risk management and oversight.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint, and change of this magnitude doesn’t happen overnight,” Mack said. “But we’re moving in the right direction, and this is an important step in our journey. I’m pleased with the progress we’re making, and the commitment and enthusiasm of our teams to move us to a customer experience culture, where the experience is based on simplicity, consistency, ease of use, and convenience.”
The changes have simplified complicated processes, replaced required questions with tips and suggestions relevant to customers, eliminated sales pressure, and allowed bankers and tellers to simply talk to their customers, ask questions, listen, and meet their financial needs by offering the right products and services or referring them to the right partners.
Coaching guides have been assigned to work with managers as they learn a new way to lead their team members — one that helps them thrive and feel good about the work they are doing. Managers have also been empowered to resolve some customer issues, such as account fees, immediately at the branch, rather than referring them to a call center.
No more ‘homework’
Diana Rodriguez, manager of the Rose Ranch branch in Oxnard, California, has seen the effects of the changes since her location started piloting them in May. She said her team members especially love the ability to have more natural conversations with customers and the elimination of the financial priorities worksheet customers had to fill out.
These days, laminated ‘What’s important to you?’ cards are on all desks, and these prompt natural conversations with customers about saving, managing, or borrowing money; investing; or retirement. A customized card for business customers lists common topics of interest such as cash flow, borrowing, and financial planning.
Team members have been given the tools to talk to their customers about these and other important topics, including the products and services available to help them with their financial needs.
“Bankers feel like they’re now able to have a conversation, where before they felt like they were having to ask customers to complete a task,” Rodriguez said. “With the worksheet, they said it felt like giving their customers homework. Now they can talk to customers and find out what their goals are, personally and financially, just by having a simple conversation that customers lead.”
Hearing customers ‘loud and clear’
Denise Pech, a personal banker in the Rose Ranch branch, had an experience that illustrated just how much these changes are impacting customers.
While talking to a customer about her life — not about what banking products she should consider — Pech said the woman nearly broke down as she described the stress of living paycheck to paycheck under a mountain of debt. She asked Pech if she could offer any suggestions, and as it turned out, she could.
Pech helped the customer consolidate her debt, lower her interest rate, and free up some of her monthly budget — all before she walked out of the branch. Most importantly, Peck offered her tips and resources for improving her finances, paying down her debt, and better managing her credit.
“She stopped by and told me Denise was like her ‘angel,’ and how she had worried each month just about having enough money to buy groceries,” Rodriguez said. “She trusted Denise, and the care she had for her as a person, so much that she brought another family member to see her who also struggled with financial management.”
Interactions like this lead to satisfied customers who leave the branch feeling like their needs were met, rather than like they just heard a sales pitch.
“I’m proud of the way Denise did a great job having a conversation, and listening, and applying her knowledge and experience,” Rodriguez said. “We’re seeing improvement in our Gallup customer surveys, including the ratings customers now give us on the question, ‘Did the banker ask questions to understand your needs?’ Denise definitely did, and heard her customer loud and clear.”
‘Customers are going to be happier’
Emiley Day, a Wells Fargo branch teller in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, has felt freed by the changes to be herself and get to know her customers.
“We’re being more genuine and customers can tell,” Day said. “So when it makes sense, and I do mention something that might help them, such as a free feature we have for mobile and online customers that gives them immediate access to view their FICO® Score and monitor their credit, it’s coming from me — as a person who wants to help — and not because I’m being prompted to ask.”
Added Day, “From what I’ve experienced in my branch with the changes, I think customers are going to be happier, and more pleased with our service, and feel that the people helping them really do care about them. These changes are really good for customers, and really good for us.”