1 Engaging Reason to Like These Banks

A recently study honored 36 companies for their commitment to workplace excellence. Only two American banks made the list. Here's why that's so important.

Dave Koppenheffer
Dave Koppenheffer
Apr 1, 2014 at 7:00AM

It's happened to all of us. At one time or another we've been the victim of terrible customer service. They weren't just unhelpful, but dismissive, rude, and downright insulting. Gallup refers to these employees as the "actively disengaged", and they make up a shocking 24% of the global workforce. The survey suggested that their less hostile and slightly more helpful brethren, "not engaged", make up 63%.

The remaining 13% of the workforce are the game-changers, or the "engaged". They are psychologically committed and focused on contributing positively toward company goals. Recently, Gallup honored 36 "Companies That Set the Standard for Workplace Excellence.

There were only two American banks that made the cut: Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) and PNC Financial (NYSE:PNC).

Why is this so important?
The impact of quality customer service can't be over stated. In Phil Rosenzweig's book, "The Halo Effect" he referenced a study that was done on call centers. The study found that customers whose problem was solved quickly, versus customers whose issue wasn't resolved, reported having an overall better feeling toward the company. This is referred to as the halo effect. A person's impression of part of a company can influence their feelings about the entire company.

This is where Wells Fargo and PNC could gain a huge advantage. While customer-facing employees have many duties, one of the most beneficial is cross-selling -- or selling more products to existing customers. According to Wells Fargo, "[This] is very important to our business model and key to our ability to grow revenue." PNC, similarly, suggested, "Our strategy involves competing on the basis of superior service... a key consideration in pursuing this approach is the cross-selling opportunity." 

It would seem, at least intuitively, a more "engaged" workforce would be more likely to pursue company goals such as cross-selling, and more likely to be successful. This has shown to be the case, at least, for Wells Fargo. While not every company releases its cross-sell data, Wells Fargo's six products per retail banking household is considered among the best. 

It's a little surprising
Wells Fargo is the top holding of legendary investor Warren Buffett. The bank showed incredible resiliency during the financial crisis. It's also popularized its now tag line, "Some questions take more than a bank, they take a banker." It's easy to believe that employees would take pride in working for a bank that's held in such esteem.

Source: wellsfargo.com.

I was, frankly, blown away to see PNC on this list. Not because it's a poorly run bank, but because it's been cutting back so many bank branches. In fact, according to SNL Financial, PNC lowered its branch count by 160 in 2013 alone. For some perspective, PNC ranked second among all U.S. banks behind Bank of America. You'd expect high reductions in headcount to have an impact on employee morale, but that certainly doesn't seem to be the case. Who knows, maybe it lifted spirits when employees found out it wasn't them being fired. 

The bottom line
Having great customer service and an engaged workforce isn't enough to warrant an investment. Though, it's often toward the top of my list, and one of the many reasons I believe in the future of Wells Fargo. 

What this study really did, however, was open my eyes toward PNC. It's a bank I haven't spent nearly enough time on, but with this type of praise, it's becoming hard to ignore.