Wachovia is a Cinderella story in customer service excellence. Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., with 94,000 employees, Wachovia is the fourth-largest bank holding company in the United States and the third-largest full-service U.S. brokerage firm, with 3,131 financial centers, 5,119 ATMs, and 719 retail brokerage offices.
In 1999, Wachovia was the ugly stepsister when it came to customer service, scoring far below the industry average and with a customerrate hovering at just 20 percent. The company's research indicated that a staggering 60 percent of customers had left because of a perceived poor employee attitude.
So, with the lofty goal of seeking to deliver “unmatched service and advice” for its customers, management established the W.I.S.E. (Wachovia Is Service Excellence) philosophy:
- I will warmly welcome you.
- I will focus only on you.
- I will make it easy to do business with me.
- I will take ownership of your needs.
- I will be knowledgeable and professional.
- I will be responsive to your questions and requests.
- I appreciate your business.
A W.I.S.E. committee was established to inspect service indicators, identify service issues, and review key initiatives. Each month, the committee met with CEO Ken Thompson and top executives. The company also created the Wachovia Recognition Champion Network, which meets monthly to create a more unified culture of recognition across the business units.
All of a sudden, this company — which had had no recognition awards — had several. A corporationwide recognition program called Shared Success allows any employee to recognize any other employee for demonstrating Wachovia values, including 1) actions that lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty; 2) fostering a culture in which employees get the recognition they deserve from peers, managers, and senior leaders; and 3) increasing employee engagement. T.O.P. Dollars (for Truly Outstanding Performance) is a cash-equivalent reward used companywide to recognize employees with $5 increments redeemable for gift certificates from 350 stores, restaurants, airlines, and hotels. The top award, Recognition Trips, is a five-day bankwide recognition trip for top performers and honored employees and their guests, who stay at such choice locations as the Ritz-Carlton, Maui; the Fairmont Princess Hotel, Scottsdale, Ariz.; and The Fairmont Princess Hotel, Bermuda.
The results of this more than five-year focus on service excellence are apparent in the bank's customer loyalty scores, which have grown to 55 percent, and its customer attrition, which dropped to less than 12 percent. The American Customer Satisfaction Index just ranked Wachovia No. 1 in customer satisfaction for the fifth consecutive year, and J.D. Power and Associates ranked it No. 1 in retail banking satisfaction among large banks. The company's stock has also increased 109 percent over the past five years — a financial return that ranks No. 1 of the top 20 U.S. banks.
Bob Nelson, PhD, is president of Nelson Motivation Inc., San Diego; best-selling author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees; and a frequent presenter to management groups and conferences. For more information, visit www.nelson-motivation.com.
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