I like to joke in speeches about how the country’s attention is constantly being focused on evil bankers who dare to charge customers for… well, anything. I half-expect that someday we’ll have to include handwritten notes of apology to any customer we charge for…well, anything.
(I shouldn’t joke. All of the new regulations aren’t written yet.)
And yet, so many of the service providers we use on a regular basis go out of their way to ensure that you are never quite sure of what things actually cost or what’s in their agreements. My wife and I visited one of the worst offenders this week.
We wished to buy smartphones for our sons for Christmas. Being the blissful ignoramus that I am about cellular contracts and packages, I figured this would be no big deal.
We have 4 phones. We still wanted 4 phones but wished to have all smartphones.
I’m pretty sure I could have set up Swiss bank accounts for my kids with less confusion and background checks than it took to upgrade 2 phones.
We ended up walking out now owning 6 phones with 6 different numbers. I will (I think) pay a couple hundred dollars for the privilege of turning the 2 older ones off in a month… to avoid paying monthly fees on them for another year.
And yet, this deserving-of-ridicule company was greatly saved in our minds by the actions of the rep in the store. Brian also sold me my last phone earlier in the year.
He was the one non-infuriating piece of this “contracts and penalties” puzzle.
Over the course of the 30 minutes we were there, he likely had to say some version of, “I know this doesn’t seem to make sense, but…” five times or more.
He re-explained things as needed and calculated several plans using our past data usage information to come up with the most cost-effective plan (as confusing as it seems) for us.
But we walked out discussing the help and service Brian had provided instead of the mind-blowingly frustrating practices of that company.
I’m fond of reminding folks to always simply strive to be as easy to do business with as possible. Still, life (and business) can be complicated sometimes.
Mistakes and misunderstandings occur.
But empathy and courtesy from even one employee can diffuse contentious situations and even strengthen relationships.
Make sure you and your team fit that description this week.
I read a column a few weeks ago that had me reflecting back to the Mesozoic period when I managed an in-store branch.
I had a boss who trusted me enough to give me lots of freedom.
Okay, that’s the official story. It’s more likely that my freedom was the result of geography.
Our little denovo branch was a far enough drive from both my boss and the marketing director that they didn’t pop in very often… or at all.
They monitored my results closely - my tactics… not so much.
Being influenced by the kind of marketing I saw around me in the grocery store, I was constantly running “specials” as well. I had limited-time offers and deals all of the time.
My branch wasn’t given product offerings or pricing that our other branches didn’t have. We just made it seem like we did.
Our sister branches had great loan rates. We had “GREAT LOAN RATES!!!” on dry-erase boards and fliers. We also proudly promoted things like weekend specials and “The Best Rates Around!”
When another manager asked me, “Around what?”, I joked that “around” is an amorphous term… it may change from day to day.
We also took grief from other bankers about our “handmade” marketing – as we consistently opened more accounts than they did.
We, of course, followed all of the 17,000 rules or so that banks have to follow in our marketing. Our disclosures on all marketing pieces were long, comprehensive, and took overkill to new levels.
But it was all about grabbing attention. In a sea of disinterested shoppers, you need a hook.
A recent column about “Cyber Monday” had me chuckling and thinking back to those “SPECIAL OFFER” days.
Mat Honan of the magazine Wired, states that Cyber Monday is a joke.
He writes, “Cyber Monday exists not to benefit consumers, but retailers who can use it as yet another marketing channel and the press, which can get viewers out of it by pretending it’s something special. The sales are happening anyway. The term is just a way to get you to pay attention to it.”
In an advertising-saturated world, “specials” and “events” still tend to grab consumers’ attention.
Take a look around your branch. Are you promoting anything “SPECIAL” that would garner a second glance from passersby?
If not, don’t be surprised if folks in your vicinity merrily go about their days without paying any special attention to you.