Why Worry About Worry Management?

Customers have multiple worries when interacting with financial institutions.  This worrying is a major but unrecognized root cause of dissatisfaction. Managing these worries could be easy and powerful.


Customers worry

If you have ever spent time listening to incoming call center service calls, you would have noticed that many customer calls sound like: “I am calling to make sure that my ATM deposit was credited to my account”. Customers can worry about more trivial things in their day to day interactions with the bank such as “Did I pick the fastest teller queue to stand in?”, or more profound situations like “Did I make any mistakes when I filled in my mortgage application?”

Worries can be addressed

Some worries cannot be addressed (e.g. “Will my investment returns be higher than last year?”).  Many others can be managed by:

  • Information being pushed or made available (e.g. on apps)

  • Process changes

Not all worries are the same

There are multitudes of customer worries.  They can however be categorized, analyzed, and managed.  The following is a starter list of “worry categories” as you try to understand the customer experience your processes, practices and policies are providing:

  • Transaction Completion, e.g., “Did my transaction post?”

  • Process Compliance, e.g., “Did I fill in the form correctly?”

  • Wait Time, e.g., “How long will I hold until the next agent picks up my call?”

  • Customer Choice, e.g., “Did I pick the right product?”

Worrying degrades customer experience

This sense of “worrying” degrades customer experience rapidly and has a cumulative impact because it is not an instant feeling but can last for minutes, hours, days, months, or longer.

For this reason, we measure worry in intensity as well as duration.

Furthermore, because worrying is often a feeling that exists in the background, customers do not articulate it in their complaints or voice it when asked general open-ended questions about their experience.

Banks that proactively address and manage their customers’ “worries” have more satisfied and more loyal customers.

A solution exists!

There is a systematic approach to achieve this level of excellence called “Worry Management”.

The first step is to understand what customers worry about when they interact with your bank, what is the nature of the worrying, and what action (or inaction) of the bank is fueling the worry.  We call this stage “worry mapping”.  There are two components to successful “worry mapping”:

  1. Analyses of bank processes, policies, communications, etc. to develop hypotheses of what is causing customer worries.

  2. Customer research to understand what customers actually worry about and to validate the hypotheses generated based on the analyses above.  There are two types of customer research relevant in this case:

  • Passive: listen to recorded calls, read customer feedback.

  • Active: ask customers and frontline employees.  Note that because of the latent nature of many customer worries, classic primary research might not reveal the full picture of customer worries.  Questionnaires to identify worries must be prepared accordingly.

The second step, once we have a complete understanding of customers’ worries, is to identify what changes to processes or information flows can mitigate the worries:

  1. In some cases, there is something the bank does (e.g., a process, a policy) that needs to be eliminated or modified.

  2. In other cases, a new process step or a new information flow needs to be added.


Case Study #1:  How technology can eliminate worries

Our favorite case study relates to deposits at ATMs.  For decades ATMs offered the functionality of accepting deposits in cash and check.  The customer would place the check or cash in an envelope and deposit it at the ATM.  Adoption rates were very low because customers were worried that if for some reason their deposit was not credited, or was credited for less than the amount deposited, the customer would have no recourse to prove he or she was right and was not lying. This worry was not “instant” but would last until the customer saw the deposit credited to their account, which would take the next day (or longer if the deposit was made over the weekend).  It also required a customer follow up action (e.g., a call to the call center to confirm the deposit was posted to the account) to put the worry to rest.

This customer worry had three negative effects:

  1. It negatively affected customer experience by forcing them to wait for branch operating hours to perform their transactions and typically incur longer waiting times at the teller queue relative to the ATM queue.

  2. It increased bank operating costs since the cost of a teller-assisted transaction is multiples of the cost of an ATM transaction

  3. It created a cascade effect that affected branch queue waiting times for all customers

This changed with the advent of “envelope-less ATMs”.  Customers now place their cash or checks directly into the ATM without an envelope, the ATM confirms the deposit, and prints a receipt that contains an image of the check.  The result of eliminating this customer worry has been an exponential increase in the use of ATMs for customer deposits.


Case Study #2:  How process redesign can eliminate worries

When SME owners chose to apply for a bank loan (to secure better rates or higher amounts relative to what the emerging non-bank lenders can offer), they often wait for weeks for their credit decision.

While any credit decision could be unfavorable, and there is little that can be done to eliminate that worry, the period from application preparation until the credit decision, is a classic example of a “worrying period”.  Even if the credit is eventually approved, the SME owner would have remained in a state of constant worry about the outcome for weeks.  This worrying is often further aggravated when the bank requests that the client complete or submit additional documentation before it can reach its credit decision.

For a bank client whose SME credit approval process would take many weeks and required a large amount of effort to prepare, we redesigned the process such that a conditional credit decision could be reached within 24 hours based on a thinner credit file.  The thinner credit file contained 100% of the information of the traditional file that was required for the credit decision, but 0% of the formal documentation required by internal compliance and regulators for funded loans.

If a credit was declined, the SME owner would have experienced a very short “worry period” and could, following the negative outcome, redirect his or her credit search.  If a credit was approved, the SME owner could stop worrying and then, in collaboration with their RM, focus on collecting the formal documentation that substantiates the information on their application and satisfies compliance and regulatory requirements for what constitutes a complete and compliant credit file for funded loans.  Once this administrative step is completed, the funds are released.

By simplifying the process, without relaxing the bank’s credit parameters, and without in any way risking non-compliance with internal or regulatory requirements, the customer worry period was slashed by over 95% from an average of 4+ weeks to 24 hours.

At Delos Advisors we obsess about customer experience because we think it is the most important driver of long term shareholder returns. Customer experience developed in a systematic, almost scientific method, is a sustainable competitive advantage.