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Penny Crosman
Penny Crosman
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ING CEO Kuhlmann Offers Tips on Creating A Great Customer Experience

Three elements of ING's winning formula: don't outsource call centers, don't use IVRs, get rid of complaining customers.

MediaPost ran an interesting article today about a speech given by Arkadi Kuhlmann, ING CEO, at a Conference Board meeting Wednesday. A few of his points could be helpful to banks who want to improve their customer experience.

Like Wells Fargo, Umpqua Bank and others, ING refers to its branches as "stores," emphasizing the desire to entice and serve retail customers. ING draws customers in "with cafes, lounges, and the occasional Harley," the article states. "What does that have to do with banking? 'Nothing,' [Kuhlmann] said. The bottom line: great customer experience is everything. 'At the end of the day, it's not what we do at ING Direct, it's what we stand for.'"

According to the article, ING now has $90 billion in assets and is the No. 1 savings bank in America. "We want to make savings cool, and in a lot of categories, saving is not cool," the story quotes Kuhlmann saying. "Generally, what we do in our category is the direct opposite of what everyone else is doing."

Oddly, Kuhlmann spoke about getting rid of disgruntled customers. "He disparaged the services-industry sacred cow adage about the unhappy customer being the company's fault," the article says. "He said a significant number of customers will always be unhappy, and they will always complain and castigate the brand. 'I'm more interested in firing customers every month than getting new ones,' he said. 'You want customers who love you, not ones that cause problems. So cleaning up the customer base is good. Get them out of the store, out of the restaurant, off the Web pages, off the phone, out of your life.'" [Apparently he did not explain how ING does this.] The bank also tries to dump customers who have more than a million dollars to deposit, to focus the brand on "Main Street" consumers, he said.

Kuhlmann also took issue with the concept of relationship-building, according to the article. "I don't want a relationship. If you want a relationship, get a dog. It should be more like dating and less like marriage. Translate for marketers: why marry anything? Stay short and sweet and just date your customers."

ING does not outsource its call centers, nor does it use automated voice response systems, Kuhlmann said, because U.S. customers don't like them. It doesn't even over-manage customer service reps. He advised, "Stop scripting people. Tell them to build the 'wow' experience, not volume."

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