We were going to eat out on Saturday whether I wanted to or not. My wife had coupons in her purse that were getting close to their expiration dates.
She considers letting a coupon expire to be an insult, crime, or sin, depending on the amount.
The place we chose was packed. I took that as a sign that the restaurant was okay. That or lots of coupons were on the verge of expiring.
Our waiter seemed new to the wait profession… and adulthood. He looked like he could be a peer of my 14-year-old.
He had that just-been-trained and working-hard-to-remember-how-to-do-this vibe going on. During our initial interaction, we learned that it was his first weekend.
As he walked away with our order, I joked to my wife, “There is no possible way he gets that order right.” And he didn’t. But it was pretty close and easily fixable.
But what the kid lacked in experience he made up for in hustle and manners.
He consistently called me “sir”, my wife “mam”, and my boys “gentlemen.” (That alone was good for a chuckle or two.) The job may have been a little overwhelming for him, but he seemed to realize that Priority #1 was checking on his tables.
Before the bill came, he walked over and apologized to us before he said what came next. He sheepishly said, “I’m sorry, but my manager is really on us that we have to tell every customer about our gift cards and discounts you can get for buying one.”
I smiled as the young man broke every sales best-practice known to man as he apologized for making us listen to a sales pitch. He seemed relieved when I said, “Okay, let us think about it.”
As soon as he was out of earshot, my wife said, “Get a gift card.” I sagely replied, “Uhhhh…huh?”
She reasoned that 1) it would take another $5 off of this bill, 2) Christmas is around the corner, and 3) the kid was working really hard.
Of course, when we said we’d buy one, he had to bring in help because we were his first sale. But he sure was happy about it and thanked us excitedly.
I was reminded of the powerful impression that sincerity, hustle, manners and appreciation make on customers.
You won’t always be perfect, but you can always show those traits. And in the end, those are the things that tend to have the most lasting impact on a customer.
Will you and your team make those kinds of impressions today?
One of the cooler things about whatever it is I’ve done for a living for the past 17 years has been the opportunity to pick the brains of some pretty smart folks.
I’ve had chances to meet, correspond and learn from some great bankers.
A conversation I had over lunch this week with a website designer reminded me of the importance of also speaking to non-bankers about banking issues.
(A real genius observation, I know.)
My friend asked a random question about why banks did something or another that bothered him. I found myself giving a stock explanation of regulatory changes and challenges to our industry that are causing some of these issues.
I expected him to say, “Oh, I see.”
Instead, he said, “Well, it still stinks. I don’t care if you have an excuse or not.”
I laughed and said, “Yeah, you’re right.”
He continued, “But I’m seeing that banks are offering more and more cool things like letting you deposit a check with your cellphone. I would so use that!”
When I asked if his bank offered that service, he frowned, “No. And I actually like my bank. (He uses an in-store branch.) They know me and remember my name – which is something you don’t get many places these days.”
He then laughed, “If I didn’t like them, I would have switched already. As soon as they start ignoring me… I’m gonna be a cellphone bank customer somewhere else!”
That innocuous conversation reminded me of a couple of things. Personal service and real, interpersonal relationships may still trump most other things– even for a really high-tech guy like my friend.
That said, the way folks choose to do their banking is profoundly changing. An industry that has long competed by being the most convenient bank for its customers is seeing convenience being redefined by technology at a dizzying rate.
Whether your institution is on the cutting edge of these new technologies or not, there has never been a time in which communicating with customers on a personal level has been more vital.
Branches (bankers) with actual relationships with customers are more likely to see those relationships survive the coming branching and technology upheavals.
But relationships require conversations to keep them strong.
How many real conversations will you have with this week?