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Golden Service Enterprise E.Sun Bank

Mastering the Art of Service


E.Sun Bank was rated tops for service among financial institutions in CommonWealth Magazine's first ever Golden Service Awards. What does E.Sun know that others don't?



Mastering the Art of Service

By David Huang
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 477 )

"How can they stand so naturally?" Cosmos Bank's chief operating officer Wen Shu asks of E.Sun Commercial Bank's "lobby ladies" with a mix of suspicion and envy, hoping that staffers at her bank can one day emulate the standard for service she observed.

In the eyes of consumers and banking industry professionals, E.Sun's service sets the benchmark in the sector. In CommonWealth Magazine's first Golden Service Awards survey, E.Sun came out No. 1 among all banks. It topped the sector in three of seven evaluation criteria: reputation, degree of satisfaction and service attitude.

E.Sun Banks ranks among Taiwan's top three private banks, with 127 locations and over 4 million customers, trailing only Chinatrust Commercial Bank and Cathay United Bank. According to Financial Supervisory Commission figures, however, the bank had 1.68 million active credit cards (those used in the previous six months) in circulation in May, with an average transaction value even higher than that of Chinatrust credit cards. It's an indication of customers' willingness to spend using E.Sun services.

Being able to make customers feel its unique brand of service the moment they walk in the door was the starting point of the bank's campaign to benchmark itself against other sectors and upgrade its operations.

E.Sun Financial Holding Co. president Joseph Huang was personally part of that transformation, starting at E.Sun Bank in 1992 as a greeter in a bank lobby after returning from the United States with an MBA.

"This is showing respect to customers and is already commonplace at five-star hotels," Huang says of the practice, which E.Sun adopted before any other domestic bank.

Huang recalls one episode that occurred years ago at a branch in southern Taiwan. When a greeter saluted a customer who walked into the bank, the customer turned around, walked out the door and then came right back in. "Having you, wearing a suit, salute a guy like me, wearing sandals, feels really good, and I wanted to feel that one more time," the customer said.

Creating Measurable Service Standards

Twenty years ago, when E.Sun Bank launched the "lobby lady" initiative, other more established financial institutions laughed, and joked it was because as a new bank, E.Sun did not have any business and needed to find a way to make the bank look busy. Today, those same old banks have also introduced greeters, and some private banks even have their lobby helpers draped in a red ribbon to stand out.

Service quality is a catchphrase on everyone's lips, and an area given particular stress by Taiwan's financial holding companies. So why are E.Sun Bank's customers the most satisfied in the industry?

Huang believes that service quality is something that must be seen and measured if the company's employees are to embrace it from the bottom of their hearts. He constantly asks himself: "Is service quality better today than it was yesterday, and better this year than last?"

At the same time as many of E.Sun Bank's competitors were busy introducing their own greeters and using "undercover" customers to keep the service attitudes of their employees in line, E.Sun Bank continued to innovate.

"The greeters don't just guide customers. They have a good understanding with the bank tellers," Huang said. As customers approach E.Sun Bank's counters, "our tellers stand up and welcome them, ensuring that somebody is always attending to them." Also, greeters are changed every 30 minutes to 1 hour in the lobby in a "handover" ceremony, elevating the ritual to something valued by employees and seen as a novelty by customers.

Another source of good service is when all employees have a clear understanding of the company's procedures. E.Sun Bank's new hires must all undergo six months of training, learning a variety of tricks from properly buttoning buttons, bowing, nodding and smiling to how to carry oneself and serve tea when greeting a customer. The performance of every detail is rigorously checked.

Teaching by Example

Once new hires complete the training program at the bank's headquarters, they are then dispatched to the front lines to be trained on the job, first by observing how experienced hands do their jobs and then by learning to help customers complete transactions under the guidance of others.

"That is a part of E.Sun Bank's complete quality management," Huang stresses. "The president's verbal instructions are no match for the teaching by example provided by more experienced people. This also is a huge help in building teamwork.

"We often challenge our own service quality and service process, because customers quickly get used to the existing standard of service and quickly develop expectations for something even better," Huang says.

Because of that, E.Sun Bank not only benchmarks itself against other financial institutions, but against companies in other sectors.

Toyota needs only 11 hours to build one car, despite having to juggle 30,000 components and 500 suppliers. When a bank processes a credit card application, it must hurdle major steps: the application, credit checks and final approval. The process took most banks five to 10 days, leading Huang to wonder if there weren't a faster way to complete it.

Today, E.Sun Bank normally issues new cards within three to five days.

'Hope Engineers': Conceiving the Services of the Future

To learn from other industries, E.Sun Bank set up what it calls its "I Center" on the 13th floor of its headquarters. The "I" stands for ideas, innovation and integration. Huang often brainstorms with the center's "hope engineers" in search of the bank's next challenge or the next opportunity to gain knowledge from outside the banking sector.

The bank selects its "hope engineers" from a pool of candidates at the assistant manager level and above, Huang explains, and gives them a month of specialized training. The goal of the training is to turn them into the executives of tomorrow.

"The success or failure of these creative initiatives is my responsibility. Out of every 10 ideas, there are inevitably some that don't work. But if top executives are not willing to bear responsibility, innovation is impossible to put in place," Huang says.

When Huang brainstorms with his hope engineers, the products or new methods of financial institutions around the world and fresh service philosophies of companies outside the industry are all carefully evaluated. Many evolve into initiatives resulting in E.Sun Bank service upgrades, ensuring that it can satisfy its customers' needs now and in the future.

Translated from the Chinese by Luke Sabatier