The financial services industry has had a pretty rough couple of years, and 1st Mariner is no exception. Recognizing that we needed to get a better understanding of the relationship between us and our customers, we began phone surveys using the metric of the Net Promoter Score (NPS). Developed by Fred Reichheld in 2003, NPS measures customer loyalty by asking one simple question, "How likely is it that you would recommend 1st Mariner Bank to a friend or colleague?". Using a scale of 0-10, it identifies your loyal customers (Promoters) and those who are less satisfied (Detractors). NPS is the percentage of Promoters minus the percentage of Detractors. The highest NPS score in the industry is 81% for USAA, the large credit union serving military personnel and their families. Most of the national banks are well below that, averaging in the 30% range. Our average score in 2009 was 66%, a very respectable score.
In October of 2009, we rolled out an internal training program focusing on the customer. Called "Providing Red Carpet Service the 1st Mariner Way", all customer facing personnel, including Tellers, Contact Center Representatives, and Branch Managers, attended. Beginning with mystery shops of a competitor and a retail store, employees were asked to focus on service from the customers perspective. The response was extremely positive from the attendees. The training has been reinforced with monthly Red Carpet Service awards to individuals and groups highlighting these service "stars". In addition, there are efforts to promote teller referrals and increase product knowledge across the branches. The next phase of the program will be rolling this out to internal support areas inside the bank.
Often it is hard to quantify the success or impact of training. With NPS, we have a tool that gets us real time feedback from our customers. Preliminary results are very encouraging, as scores for the first three months of 2010 have averaged 71%, a 7% increase over last year. As they say in academia, this is a statistically significant increase. Coincidence? I don't think so, but I'd love to hear what you think.