Phoenix: Service Design for Tesco Bank

Service design award winner 2018
CCA finalist 2018

Imagine if your bank actually listened and fixed your complaint

Tesco Bank asked us to partner with them to design a complaints experience that would turn customers who have had their complaint resolved into advocates; empower customer service representatives to do their jobs more effectively; and identify opportunities for long-term service improvement. The result was a strategic service redesign that has addressed the root causes of complaints and reduced the time taken to resolve a complaint by up to 63%.

Tesco Bank recognise that a complaint is a moment of truth in the customer experience. Handled poorly, a complaint can irreparably sour the relationship with a customer. In pursuing their commitment to outstanding customer service, Tesco Bank asked Modern Human to work with them to improve their complaints service by aligning it with their organisation’s values. They wanted to create a service that focused on taking ownership, making human connections, and building long lasting customer relationships.

63% time to resolve a complaint
Number of complaints solved at first point of contact
0 Escalations for faster response
confidence of front-line staff and complaints team

We established a pop-up design studio in Tesco Bank’s contact centre in Glasgow and brought together a multi-disciplinary team from across the bank. Successfully resolving complaints requires a knowledgeable and empowered team of customer service representatives backed up by complaint resolution specialists and supported by experienced managers. We brought all of these people together, along with UX designers from the bank’s internal design team, the bank’s Head of Customer Care, their Customer Services Director, and their Head of Digital and Marketing Strategy.

With the team in place, we began with an ethnographic research approach in which we applied multiple methods to explore the everyday experiences of customers and complaints handlers. The research we carried out helped us to understand the nuances and drivers of complaint experiences. We were focused on the familiar; the routines and practices that people have developed for difficult conversations, whether that be the customer making a complaint or the colleague handling it. We sought to understand how people’s relationships and routines embody the beliefs and values that drive their behaviour, attitudes and opinions.

Our design research revealed the neuropsychology at play, particularly in regards to the stress response of those making and handling a complaint call. The stress experienced by both the customer and the colleague invokes an autonomic physiological response. The body releases adrenaline and cortisol, which in turn creates a fight or flight response in which problem-solving capability and lateral thinking are restricted. This is the human context in which any complaint takes place: two people whose logical reasoning is potentially impaired by stress, and who are both under significant cognitive load.

A deep analysis of our design research, coupled with multiple other datasets, also helped us to understand the factors that shape a customer’s expectations. Factor analysis revealed that these can be modelled using just three dimensions: their relationship with Tesco (and Tesco Bank specifically), their attitude to their product, and the outcome that they are seeking. This model included the optimum way to approach the complaint, as well as how the customer’s expectations of their bank changes at moments of crisis.

We used our human-centred service design method to set out a new way to handle complaints. Our service design identified and addressed four areas: the customer experience, systems and processes within the Bank, the culture of the Bank, and the physical working environment of the contact centre. It improved the way complaints are triaged, reduced the number of people handling each complaint, and utilised all of the channels available to the Bank in the most appropriate way. The process also proposed new training to encourage call handlers to independently apply emotional intelligence to the way they handle complaints.

More complaints are now solved by the first person that a customer speaks to: no getting transferred around, no waiting on hold.

“When a customer makes a complaint, frontline staff are engaged and trying to resolve the complaint on that call to make for a better customer experience. Where this isn’t possible, their complaint is being triaged in order to respond to their complaint in the right timescale for the individual customer and their circumstance. We are resolving their complaint much quicker and within the timescale we set with the customer and we have progressed on to using SMS and email to deliver updates and outcomes to customers.”
Nichola Gavin, Customer Relations Manager

The service redesign has reduced the time to resolve a complaint by at least 49% and in some cases up to 63%. In the 6 months that the redesigned service has been in operation there have been zero instances in which a customer has asked to speak to a manager in order to get their complaint dealt with faster.

Customer Service Representatives now feel that they can dedicate their time to the complaints that they are experts in and know how to resolve, and they feel reassured to know that more timely & complex investigations can be referred to the Customer Relations Team straight away. Customer Service Representatives have told us: “The process is more aligned to meeting the time sensitive needs of some customer complaints”, “I feel more confident handling complaints” and “The engagement from the redesign team was excellent and everyone felt knowledgeable and equipped to deal with complaints under the new process.”

We also designed new complaints training that focuses on the human skills that positively influence successful outcomes: principled negotiation, objection handling, and providing clear explanations. New training encourages call handlers to apply their emotional intelligence to the situation. They now actively listen for clues as to how the customer is feeling, acknowledge the customer’s emotions and respond successfully to address those negative feelings. This human response to a customer who is upset, angry, frustrated, embarrassed or feeling foolish elevates the customer experience and prevents the complaint growing in significance in the customer’s mind. The emotion is dealt with and diffused as early as possible. This is especially if it will take time to resolve the issue, as it can prevent the negative feelings worsening over time.

Tesco Bank staff have already felt the benefit of this new training, with CSRs reporting that they feel more confident and better equipped to deal with complaints under the new process. The negotiation and complaints handling training programme we designed has been positively received by front-line staff.

“We have designed and are introducing new training to help with negotiation and influencing skills for colleagues to help with their conversations with customers alongside coaching modules that will be accessible to all colleagues who deal with customers complaints.”
Mhairi Yuill, Customer Relations Team Leader

Customer feedback on the new complaint process has already shown us that customers feel more valued, with one customer stating: “because of how you have handled this I want to withdraw my complaint...You have stopped me taking this further.” Another customer described their interaction with a the Bank customer service representative as “very courteous and respectful...I am extremely satisfied at your swift action.”

The service redesign for complaints includes feedback mechanisms to other parts of the organisation and a better aligned measurement framework for complaints to address these issues. It recognises that a complaint is often a symptom of a broader problem. The project will leave a legacy of continuous improvement. The Bank also has a new complaints I.T. system based on the requirements set out in the service blueprint and service specification.

At a senior level, the project has proved that service design could be applied successfully within the Bank for real business benefit. Executive Leadership at the Bank are taking service design seriously as a way of achieving business objectives and are directly involved in future projects. The pop-up design studio we helped to create has become a permanent feature and now handles service design projects for the bank.