March 1, 2011

Service: Evan LaHuta, Chris Child

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If one of the four defining characteristics of Pershing Advisor Solutions is service, what’s the PAS philosophy on customer service for advisors?

According to Chris Child, (left), director of customer service for PAS, the culture is one of “customer advocacy” under which PAS customer service liaisons (CSLs) act “with alacrity and a focus on execution: we try to empower them to act on behalf of their clients.”

Evan LaHuta, director for customer experience, says customer service management continually asks, “How do we reduce the effort of our advisors?” and says, “We have internal and external measures so as to reduce the effort of advisors.” Child notes that in 2008–2009, the company was “focused on customer satisfaction,” and what they learned “is that it comes down to reducing customer effort.”

Since “you want to make sure your own house is clean before you invite anyone over,” LaHuta, (left), says “we know how to measure, monitor, control and repeat,” expertise that resulted in Pershing winning an American Society for Quality (ASQ) bronze medal in 2009. For advisors, says Child, that translated into breaking down the number of transactions the advisors had with the service team and how long it took to accomplish each transaction. “We then show them what the average time was for all Pershing advisors to open a new account or get a check request done,” says Child, which helps the advisors benchmark their own performance—are other advisors more efficiently using the technology available to them, for instance?—and for the customer service team to identify areas of improvement.

Since so much of the experience is measured, how well is the customer service team doing? LaHuta reports that “98% of our transfers are getting done in the same day.” The CSLs use the same technology platform—NetX360—as do the advisors they’re serving, so Child says “we’re seeing the same screen they see,” and can send them a message or alert “that will appear in the way the client advisor has set up, notifying them what needs to be done.

It’s measured performance, but with intelligence applied. “If you want to encourage certain behavior, you don’t want customer service team members to worry about taking too long to solve a problem,” Child points out. “We measure many things,” says LaHuta, but “we don’t get blinded by the metrics—it’s managing to the metrics thoughtfully that meets the needs of advisors.”

As for the teams themselves, customer service went through a process of determining that each person was in the “right role in the organization,” according to Child. The teams went from a standard structure of a primary contact person, a team of CSLs and a team manager to the current structure: a team manager overseeing a team of six CSLs and an embedded service manager who can escalate issues at the point of contact up to the account manager.

PAS’s three service centers—in Jersey City, Lake Mary, Fla. and Greenwood Village, Colo.—provide support from 8:00 AM to 6:30 PM Eastern time, though there is “flexibility” provided by the Denver location to West Coasters, and the trading desk is open “24/7,” says LaHuta, either in the United States or overnight through Pershing’s London office.

Tibergien boils down the service approach to a simple statement. “The goal here—and it’s still a goal; I’m reluctant to say we’ve achieved perfection—is to make it easier to do business with us.”

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