customer experience

Want to Deliver a Great Customer Experience? Don’t Throw Your Employees Under the Bus

How do you define a great customer experience? Wells Fargo is another company that doesn’t seem to get it. The bank was found to have opened fake accounts and credit cards for its customers, without the customers’ knowledge. Then it collected fees from these accounts. For doing so, the bank was fined $185 million. Ouch. But not really; that’s chump change.

Wells Fargo has stepped right up to the plate. CEO John Strumpf said the bank has “significantly strengthened” its training programs and oversight, has reviewed millions of accounts for unauthorized activity, tightened compliance procedures, and is taking steps to eliminate the product sales goals that are said to be at the heart of the issue. It sounds like a very penitent financial institution, doing whatever it takes to take care of the customer. Oh, and it fired 5,300 employees.

The Employee Experience

But were they humbled? Not by a long stretch. One of the saddest parts of the fraud equation is that the bank has failed to understand the real issue here. Sure, it appears that many consumers were blatantly mistreated. Wells Fargo has been gracious enough, because they were forced to do so, to return the fees it collected from customers for credit cards and accounts these “valued” customers didn’t set up in the first place. But the issue doesn’t start with the customer experience. It starts with the employee experience. And Wells doesn’t appear to have taken ownership for the problem.

Strumpf announced the bank had sacked 5,300 workers, including branch managers, senior staffers, and general staffers for creating the bogus accounts. The CEO also announced that the bank was abandoning its sales performance quotas, which led bank workers to create accounts without customer knowledge. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director, Richard Cordary, clearly placed the blame for the scandal on the bank’s incentive programs that encouraged underhanded practices. So the bank is eliminating the program, according to Wells Fargo execs. Wells Fargo CFO, Johns Shrewsberry, went on to explain that it was only the underperforming employees, who were unable to meet these targets, making these poor decisions (to defraud customers).

Employees, meet bus!

The Customer Experience

customer experience

Rather than taking ownership and manning up to the fact that the bank created an environment in which employees felt it was both okay to defraud customers, and that some even needed to do so in order to keep their jobs, the bank chose to distance itself from its employees as “underperformers.” Sounds like a quick toss under a fast-moving vehicle. Here’s the catch: the customer experience is a direct reflection of the employee experience.

Want a great customer experience? Start with the Employee Experience. In the case of Wells Fargo, employees felt the need to stiff customers. Why? Because in order to hit bank-dictated performance targets, they had to achieve goals around numbers of new accounts opened. But here comes the catch. Wrong or right, employees felt they needed to do anything they could, including lie or cheat, to meet these targets. Even if it meant defrauding the customer.

So, the bank is doing what it needs to in order to take care of its customer. Even if the reason they are doing so is that they were forced to pay fines and make restitution. They got caught. But the bank didn’t really address the problem—the employee experience.

A Culture of Fraud

It was Wells Fargo that created the culture. Not just the horrible cesspit of 5,300 dishonest, underperforming workers not acting in the interests of a squeaky clean employer. The bank chose to disown the employees, claiming that they were underperformers to begin with. Okay, Wells, why do you have underperformers working for you in the first place? That, in itself, isn’t a real confidence booster (and that’s in addition to the minor detail of them ripping off hundreds of thousands of customers). Employees will deliver a customer experience that matches their own experience in the organization. We call this the Law of Congruent Experience.

If your customer experience is poor, look first to your employee experience, not at throwing your most valuable resources under the bus.



Tracy Maylett

Tracy Maylett is the Chief Executive Officer of DecisionWise, and co-author of the award-winning book, MAGIC: Five Keys to Unlock the Power of Employee Engagement. He is responsible for guiding the overall strategy of DecisionWise, as well as leading large-scale change efforts for clients throughout the globe. Tracy has a doctorate in Organization Change from Pepperdine University, an M.B.A. from Brigham Young University, and a B.A. in Education from Utah State University. He has also received certification as a Senior Professional of Human Resources (SPHR), as well as earning SHRM-SCP credentials.

  • footer-logo

    There’s a more human way to do business.

    In the Social Age, it’s how we engage with customers, collaborators and strategic partners that matters; it’s how we create workplace optimism that sets us apart; it’s how we recruit, retain (and repel) employees that becomes our differentiator. This isn’t a “people first, profits second” movement, but a “profits as a direct result of putting people first” movement.

  • Connect

    email: connect@switch&
    1133 Ferreto Parkway
    Dayton, NV 89403

    Terms & Conditions  |  Privacy Policy

    Newsletter Subscription

    Do you like our posts? If so, you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up HERE and receiveThe Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!
  • Contact Us

    Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.