This article was originally posted at https://www.eglobalis.com/a-personal-bank-story-how-to-win-and-lose-a-bank-customer/.

I rarely share personal experiences. But, I have experienced first-hand some of the reasons why Deutsche Bank is losing customers to competitors. In my case, I’m moving with my family to Commerzbank, which has simply yet designed a better customer experience. The bank is showing us that it’s welcoming, and understands how to treat a customer with care and respect (more on the bank’s approach to CX in a moment). However, through this experience, we can glean valuable lessons.

Be consistent with everybody and treat people well – through the good times and the bad times. This is elementary stuff in customer experience. And yet …

Being a customer over the years with Deutsche Bank has led me to think that it would struggle to answer two basic questions: are we doing enough to deliver on the basics? Are we doing enough to meet every customer’s needs? From my own personal experience, the answers are no. For other more high-value customers the answers might well be yes. But, I wanted to share my personal experience. I was with the bank for 20 years. For the past 10, I almost stopped doing business with them.

After years of a tense relationship and poor treatment and basic customer experience – at the most senior level during a particularly rough time for us, around ten years ago – Finally I decided. I’m leaving. Here are some of the reasons why.

Experience 101 – how Deutsche Bank is failing on the basics

On paper, banks like Deutsche Bank have super customer experience. My experience tells me they are stuck in neutral gear and losing ground to their competitors at least in CX, inside Germany. Leaders who understand how to design a great experience would not mistreat a customer, never engage and also ask for a second chance after we communicated the intention to close our account two weeks ago. The bank does not have the mindset of a business that wants to deliver a consistently good experience to all customers.

A few weeks ago, I finally told Deutsche Bank I wanted to close the account. I travelled to a pre-arranged appointment in Ingolstadt (a city close to Munich) to sign the documents to complete the closure. I was met with not even a basic understanding of CX and services.

I had spoken twice with the bank before the appointment and they assured me it would be easy to close the account during our meeting. When I arrived, the branch representative recalled that my address needed updating before we could proceed. This was not something they could do in branch because the system was centralised. I was sitting in front of them. They weren’t empowered to do this themselves. I was asked to return in 14 days once the paperwork and change of address was approved. They didn’t respect my time. And then came the curve ball from the training manual.

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At the 11th hour, I was asked if I would give the bank a second chance. This didn’t feel like a heartfelt message to try to keep me as a customer. It felt like a phrase that came out of the training handbook, similar to saying “good morning, thanks for waiting” to every single customer. Contrast this with the approach that mature banks take. Many have invested in predictive analytics to try to prevent customers leaving in the first place. In my case, Deutsche Bank is struggling with even the most basic process of signing off paperwork to close an account.

I’m due back soon to finally close the account. It’s time to leave. It’s taken a long time to reach the decision. But, it’s the right decision. Let me give you one more example.

Taking out a bank account in a new country for somebody learning the language is tough. During my first years in Germany, I felt the bank didn’t do enough to offer translations of important documents. Germany is the capital of bureaucracy and complexity. If you’ve ever read a German banking document, you’ll understand why this has been so frustrating experience. It’s also difficult to find apps in English. In German, the question was during my first ten years why don’t you speak German perfectly and sometimes even Bayerisch.

Over the years, the way the bank has treated me has shown me that it doesn’t really care. After all they are still leading the market with the higher market share. Deutsche Bank sits on a high perch. It’s been dominant in Germany’s commercial banking market for years. In 2021, it had a 12.77% share, according to TheBanks.eu.

Source: TheBanks.eu

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But, the bank’s grip on the market is loosening. KFW is in second place and Commerzbank is in third spot. Customers like me are joining banks like Commerzbank who apparently simply do CX better. Banks like Commerzbank understand how CX adds value to their products, services and business growth. They are better placed to retain the customers they’ve got, and gain market share. As Forrester reports, here in Germany, just like every other European country (except Italy), customer service has the greatest impact on loyalty and revenue.

Experience 101 – Sparkasse

My family had also been with Sparkasse for almost 20 years. This is a local bank and not all branches are interconnected. If you want to make a transfer you have to use online banking. If you need to go in person, you have to go to your local branch. You can’t view your balance at ATM. Different branches offer different products. None of this is convenient. However, they treated us super well and we stayed. Then we recently found out that our savings account had not had any interest for years. Losing money value, was the final straw.

A new start

I was participating at an event in Frankfurt where I met a bank Director at Commerzbank.  As converse, I told him about our histories with Deutsche Bank and Sparkasse and he suggested my family gave the bank a try. We did. Finding a new bank for us to move to happened by chance. But a good customer experience so far has happened by design.

Moments of truth     

‘Moment of truth’ is well-worn language in CX, but it’s still important. As you already probably know these ‘moments’ are interactions where emotions run high and customers are most invested in the outcome. Quid pro quo, these are times when banks most earn trust and loyalty. Many mature businesses empower their people to handle these interactions, with skill, care, empathy and respect. My examples show the difference in how Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank approach these moments. There are many examples. Here are just two.

 Moments like welcoming and onboarding a new customer – moving your financial life is a major life event. From the start we have had special treatment from Commerzbank, not because of any personal link. It’s because the bank has designed a customer experience that differentiates at a ‘moment of truth’ like this. Commerzbank has impressed us. I should say that these are early days. The bank’s team has started in the right way. People are respectful. They understand we are careful investors and are proving that they value our custom. Treating us with empathy is sowing the seeds for a loyal relationship.

Moments like getting people through a rough patch or closing an account – Deutsche Bank made life difficult for me and interactions just made me more frustrated. It was impossible to try to repair the relationship after many negative encounters.

To conclude

Lesson number one is treating all customers with care and respect. Be consistent through the good times and bad times. This is the founding principle of CX. From my experience, Deutsche Bank needs to go back to the drawing board on how they design experiences. The bank is struggling with the basics.

CX leaders are widening the gap. Mature banks put the basics in place years ago. They focus on ‘moments of truth’ and empower employees to handle these interactions with skill, care, empathy and respect. These are moments when trust and loyalty is earned. Many also invest in predictive analytics to try to prevent customers leaving in the first place.

Most day-to-day interactions with banks are mundane and transactional. I get that. Banks need to make money. I get that too. But, there are red lines. It’s time to leave when a bank treats you without care or respect, when it can’t even get the basics of the basics right, when it handles the moments I most care about like a training manual exercise.

Join the Open Access CX professional network today by becoming a member here: https://ecxo.org/individuals/

By Ricardo Saltz Gulko, MD and Co-founder of ECXO and Eglobalis

Customer experience as a value driver in German retail banking.
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