What makes customer service great? We asked Laura Costello, Digital Banking Operations Manager at our Customer Resource Center.
Q: How long have you been with Cambridge Trust?
A: This will be my 17th year. I worked in customer service in my teens and early twenties, so when I started at Cambridge Trust as a teller in Harvard Square, I really liked the way employees assisted and helped their customers. I’ve been here ever since because of it.
Q: How did your career lead you to a management role at the Customer Resource Center?
A: After becoming Head Teller in Harvard Square, I went to what was called Deposit Operations, where we ran a switchboard and transferred calls to account officers. Then, in 2005, I was asked to join the Bank’s new Customer Resource Center (CRC). There were five of us that started taking on those service requests directly. Today, we have ten people and we’re still growing.
Q: How would you describe the CRC?
A: We are a key hub for customer contact. When a customer approaches us with concerns, the first thing we do is listen. They need something really quick, and they’ve hit a wall. Our role is to listen and solve their problems. And we stay with that customer from the start of the issue until it’s resolved, even if it takes a few phone calls, we need to get other people involved, or do some additional research.
Q: Walk me through the customer experience. What happens when they call the CRC?
A: We never route our calls through a phone tree. Right away, their call will be answered — which is a pleasant surprise to some people. They love that it’s not an automated system. Recently a customer called needing some account information quickly. She was at a grocery store and needed to check her balance and make a transfer in order for the transaction to be approved. When I picked up the phone and asked “How can I help you?” she was very surprised to get a live person to assist her. I gave her the balance and made the transfer, all while she was at the register. I also told her about our Mobile Banking service so can check her balances, make transfers between her accounts, and deposit checks. Customers are always impressed with the CRC because our standard is not just to respond to a customer’s question, but to answer the next question they may have as well — without transferring them to another department.
Q: How do you anticipate the variety of questions customers will ask?
A: It’s built on experience, certainly. For example, if a customer is emailing us that they are going to Italy, we don’t just say, “Okay, have a great trip.” We put notes on their debit card, tell them how they can use their debit card while they’re traveling, and explain exchange rates. We also remind our customers that the best way to reach us while they are traveling is by logging in to their online banking account to send us an email. We have a range of digital products that our clients can access, from mobile check deposits to Apple Pay™, that help make our customers’ lives easier.
Q: Do you see an impact on loyalty after customers experience the service at Cambridge Trust?
A: I think it’s enormous. We have a lot of customers that email us and say, “That was a great response. Thank you.” In fact, we get some customers who reach out when they’re moving to ask, “How can I still bank with you?” Luckily, we have mobile banking and external transfers, so people don’t have to be in the area to bank with us. We have customers who call and email us on a regular basis. One quickly comes to mind because she’s called us almost every day for the last 15 years. She knows everyone in the Customer Resource Center and when she speaks to one of us, she always says “Tell everyone I said hi.”
Q: Has the nature or quality of customer service changed over the years?
A: One thing that has certainly changed is how customers communicate with us. Customers are choosing to email us with their questions more often, instead of calling like they used to. Our mission is to make email as personal as a phone call. Attentive customer service has always been the foundation of how Cambridge Trust does business. People are looking for better products and faster service, so we have to keep up with that demand. Customer service is important, and part of that is continually introducing new products and services. I think of Cambridge Trust’s customer service as white glove. It doesn’t matter to us if you’re a long-time customer or one that is just starting your relationship with Cambridge Trust: you get the same service either way.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Resolving a customer’s issue. It’s the most exciting and rewarding feeling. Whether it’s on the phone, in a letter, or through email, you can just tell that they are extremely happy we helped them. That’s what keeps me coming back.
Need to contact our Customer Resource Center? Call us at 617-876-5500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We got acquainted with Kathryn Hersey, Vice President and Investment Officer, with Cambridge Trust Wealth Management.
Q: How long have you been with Cambridge Trust?
A: I have been with the Bank since 2010. I started as an investment research analyst covering the healthcare equity sector.
Q: As an investment officer at Cambridge Trust, what do you do on a daily basis?
A: My work is really divided into two areas: research analysis and portfolio management. On the research side, I recommend investment ideas to our portfolios; we constantly seek to find value in the market. I also co-manage our fixed income portfolios and our newly launched Sustainable and Responsible Investing (SRI) strategy.
Q: Tell us about your background. Have you always wanted to work in investments?
A: I was a Computer Science and English major at Amherst College and developed data mining and business intelligence software following graduation. I have an MBA from Babson College, with a focus on finance and equity research. I find that technology and investment research have a lot in common; they’re both very quantitative in nature. Through my work at Cambridge Trust, I build detailed financial models and project future earnings and cash flows. Data analysis helps identify undervalued companies and holds management teams accountable to stated targets.
Q: What is Sustainable and Responsible Investing (SRI)?
A: The Sustainable and Responsible Investing strategy at Cambridge Trust involves finding high quality, undervalued, and well-managed companies that also make a positive societal impact. Many of our clients are interested in investment strategies that promote positive outcomes. Our SRI strategy invests in companies that share our clients’ vision. We launched a formal strategy in 2014.
Q: What interested you in helping to develop the strategy at Cambridge Trust?
A: Leadership is about values. I believe that companies that are best poised for long-term success will be those that lead by staying focused on their mission and incorporating a values-based culture throughout their employee base. I recognized an opportunity to develop an investment strategy where we engage with companies through that stated purpose, which is different than many investment approaches which focus on short-term quarterly financial results. We believe that by focusing on long-term strategic and sustainable drivers, we will offer our clients an investment portfolio that returns strong performance and makes strong impact via our engagement with company management teams.
Q: What is the best part of your job?
A: I love the work I do on a day-to-day basis. Meeting with company management teams, strategically identifying opportunities in the market, and rigorously analyzing new investment ideas is both challenging and truly rewarding. In my work, I constantly seek to identify undervalued opportunities while mitigating risk. Within the investment team, we employ a collegial approach where we challenge each other to come up with the best recommendations for portfolios. At its core, we help provide financial stability and growth in our clients’ lives through sound investment recommendations.
Q: Can you tell me about some of the work you do on the SRI strategy?
A: Part of what I do as an SRI investor is to identify attractive companies from both an SRI perspective and a traditional valuation perspective. In our conversations with management teams, we suggest and influence change at the corporate level. An example of this is Idexx Laboratories, a leader in diagnostic and IT solutions for animal health. The company is impressive in terms of its overall mission, environmental objectives, and employee and community programs. They weren’t just talking about it. We worked with Idexx to help identify a set of best practices in incorporating their sustainability outcomes with their business results. This ultimately helps the company make and track progress more effectively in key issues related to sustainability, and is a win-win for our investors as the disclosure attracts more capital.
Q: You’re involved with The Philanthropy Connection. What does the organization do, and what is your involvement in it?
A: The Philanthropy Connection is a relatively new collective-giving organization dedicated to inspiring and enabling women to engage with nonprofits throughout the greater Boston area. Cambridge Trust is their lead corporate partner. As one of several members from the bank, I put my research skills to work in vetting potential grant recipients. The selection process is quite rigorous.
If you are interested in learning more about our SRI strategy, please contact one of our Wealth Management Client Advisors.
In Massachusetts, contact:
Erin Cooper at 617-503-5285
Edward Fitzgerald at 617-441-1484
William Yates at 617-503-4041
In New Hampshire, contact:
Susan Martore-Baker at 603-369-5101
Securities and other investment products are:
We met with Alice Flanagan, CTFA, CFP®, Vice President and Trust Officer at Cambridge Trust Wealth Management.
- Q: How long have you been with Cambridge Trust?
- I have been with Cambridge Trust since 2011, but I have been in trust and estate planning for my entire career.
- Q: What do you do as a trust officer at Cambridge Trust?
- As a trust officer, I'm responsible for the administration of trusts and estates for our high-net-worth clients. But managing trusts is really only a small part of what I do. I'm also a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®), so I'm able to assist clients who have a planning need or require a little more guidance. I act as a liaison for my clients, collaborating with their attorneys, their accountants, their employers, their spouses, and their families. This gives me a holistic picture of a client's situation, which in turn, helps me ensure that the financial plan we've put in place is working harmoniously with other aspects of their life.
- Q: How is Cambridge Trust different from the other institutions where you've worked?
- We offer our clients two key things:
1. A wealth management team. All comprehensive investment service clients get their very own wealth management team, which consists of a trust officer, an investment officer, and an assistant. We work together to ensure every aspect of your finances is working towards a common goal.
2. Resources. Cambridge Trust blends the resources of a large corporation with the accessibility of a smaller institution. We have the lending side. We have the tax side. We have attorneys on staff — internally and within wealth management. All this right down the hall. So I don't have to call a 1-800 number to speak with operations or a tax department. I get answers from specialists I know and trust, fast.
- Q: So have you always wanted to work in financial planning?
- I have. Growing up, my father handled all the financial decisions in the household, and my mother took a backseat. She really wished she knew more so she could be involved in the process. She felt powerless and in the dark. It was something she really struggled with, and witnessing that struggle impacted me profoundly — so much so that it directed my career path as an adult. I was determined to take control of my own finances, to be an informed decision maker, and to help others do the same. So here I am. It's been a really empowering and rewarding experience.
- Q: Can you tell me about a time you felt you really made a difference for a client?
- Recently, I worked on a comprehensive financial plan for one of our clients and his wife. They were in disagreement over how to achieve their financial goals and wanted an expert opinion. So we went to work. And at the end of 8 months, we presented him with a very thorough plan. It told him how much longer he would work, how much more he was going to contribute to his retirement plan, how he was going to manage his investments, and what he should do with his rental properties. He was very pleased, and he thanked me in one sentence: "I just want to thank you for creating spousal harmony in my household." It was a really rewarding moment for me, and I don't think I'll ever forget it.
- Q: What's the best piece of financial wisdom you can give?
- Be prepared to change with the times. People are afraid of change. It's risky! But you have to adapt. I also always recommend getting a second opinion from someone you trust, be it an attorney, an accountant, a financial planner, or an investment advisor. Always run your financial plan by someone else and get a second opinion.
Securities and other investment products are:
We sat down to chat with Maria Montgomery, Branch Manager at Cambridge Trust's Harvard Square location.
- Q: So Maria, how long have you been with Cambridge Trust?
- I've been here for 15 years now.
- Q: You must really like it here.
- I do! Cambridge Trust is just so sincere and down to earth. Everyone knows everyone here — which is great because if I don't have an answer for a customer, I know just the person who does. Like Elaine at our Huron Avenue branch. Elaine is "The Mortgage Person."
- Q: And what kind of person would people say Maria is?
- [laughs] I guess they would say I'm "The Go-To Person."
- Q: What makes you say that?
- Well, I've worked in so many different areas. I started as a teller, then worked my way up to customer service, then assistant branch manager, then commercial lending officer before landing in my current role as a branch manager.
- Q: What do you do as Branch Manager?
- I do it all: home equities, mortgages, personal accounts, business accounts — little things to big things.
- Q: You have a lot of experience. What kind of financial advice would you give a friend?
- 1. Bank locally. At Cambridge Trust, for example, we go above and beyond to meet our customers' needs.
2. Save, save, save for a house, house, house.
3. Don't Google financial advice. Go into your bank and have a conversation.
- Q: Back to your first point. Can you tell us about a time when you went "above and beyond" for a customer?
- We had a customer who was closing on a house the next day. She had a good chunk of funds at Cambridge Trust, but she needed funds from another bank for the rest of her down payment. The other bank told her she could transfer it but that it could take two days to process — too long! They weren't able to help her, so Cambridge Trust did. We called her bank to confirm the funds, then let her write a check and withdraw it so she could buy her house the next day. She was so thankful, she almost cried!
- Q: How do you go above and beyond for your customers every day?
- We treat every customer as if they're our only customer. We know them by name. We remember their financial concerns, their future goals — even the kind of lollipop their kids like. And they know me, too. By phone, in person, or by email, I make sure my customers can always reach me.
- Q: You won't find that kind of personal attention at larger banks. What else sets Cambridge Trust apart?
- We're very proud of our community and support it at every turn. I try to patronize local small businesses — like our customer and neighbor, Tisan Coffee. Even the artwork in our Porter Square branch is local. This year's featured artist is a Cambridge local, Sarah Lubin.
- Q: One last question: if you weren't a banker, what would you be?
- A shoe designer!
We sat down to chat with Sal Sagarese, Vice President and Mortgage Specialist at Cambridge Trust's Harvard Square location.
- Q: How long have you been with Cambridge Trust?
- I've been with Cambridge Trust for 28 years, 15 of which I've spent as a mortgage specialist at our Harvard Square location. Today, I handle about 50% of our residential lending transactions every year.
- Q: Wow, almost three decades. What does your tenure say about the bank?
- I think it says two things:
1. That as a customer, you're going to benefit from nearly three decades of lending experience that I'll put to work for you.
2. And that we'll always be there to stand behind each and every loan. I'm often the first person the customer talks to and the last. And if they have questions after closing, they can always contact me for help — call, email, or come in and see me at the bank. Sometimes, people are surprised to find that I'm not just a voice on the phone. I'm an actual person!
- Q: You manage half of the loan transactions at the bank. How do you handle that?
- I treat every customer like they're my only customer. To me, every day is a Broadway performance, and every one of them has to be fantastic. When you're getting in front of me, you're getting the best I can give you. If I'm having an off day, you'll never know it. When I'm up to bat, I'm on. I'm cognizant of the new lending rules. I'm cognizant of the customer. I'm cognizant of my team. And I'm cognizant of the time we have to accomplish all of this.
- Q: What makes you a great lender?
- Two words: I care. I don't consider myself a lender. I consider myself a banker and an advisor because, when you think about it, I'm not just lending people money; I'm lending them my expertise. I don't get paid on commission. Because of this I always urge my clients to do what's right for them, even if it's not with Cambridge Trust.
- Q: So you're always on the customer's side.
- Always. I'm not going to oversell you. I am going to listen to your situation, understand your needs, and recommend the lending option that's right for you. Sometimes, people come in with one idea, and I introduce them to one they haven't even considered. It's all about what makes sense for each individual.
- Q: How has lending changed over the years?
- Today's lenders have to be more scrupulous than ever. New laws require that we process more paperwork, which means my job becomes more challenging. But the industry is improving. We're starting to see some loosening of the market, and more people are refinancing because rates are competitive. It's a busy time. But the busier it is, the happier I am. The worst thing I can do is sit at my desk and look out the window.
- Q: So what would you do if you won the lottery tomorrow?
- I wouldn't retire. I'd sell cars for a living — Ferraris!
Have a question of your own? Contact Sal at (617) 441-1406 or email@example.com