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Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Volume 15 | # 350
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The illiterate of the future are not those who cannot read or write. They are those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. » Alvin Toffler

A Basic Mistake

I had an interesting conversation with a few of a bank’s regional-level managers this week. They told me that their latest mystery shops revealed that their teams were not exhibiting some basic customer service behaviors that they would have previously taken for granted. They were concerned that their customer satisfaction scores were weakening.

As our conversation continued, one of the usual suspects reared its head. There had been an unintended proliferation of reports, logs, check sheets, etc. piled onto their teams. When analyzed individually, most single “reports” don’t appear overly burdensome. But when you end up with an ever-growing pile of them, it’s easy to feel more like an accountant than a customer-focused banker.

As it turns out, they have already begun to reevaluate and eliminate as many redundant and/or really-not-all-that-important reports as they can. Still, once protocol is drilled into folks’ heads, it can take a little while for them to develop new routines.

One of my comments struck a nerve and was met with strong agreement. I told them that I find it pretty amusing when folks quiz me about “advanced” sales and service training. When I hear this, the thinking is apparently, “The nuts and bolts stuff is nice. But we know how to do that.” They seem to believe that an organization “graduates” from the 101 stuff and moves on to more sophisticated pursuits.

I try (sometimes successfully) to convince them that the key is not in continually learning new or more “advanced” behaviors. The key to service excellence – and the sales excellence that can follow – is delivering on your clearly stated fundamentals of customer service with world-class consistency.

When service perceptions (or scores) drop, it’s not because customers have become spoiled by excellence and expect more. Instead, it’s usually because we’ve gotten distracted or a little lazy and have stopped executing on our most basic practices.

Our teams will tend to focus on whatever it is we clearly spell out and reinforce. But once their teams show they can deliver solid personal service, managers sometimes have a tendency to take it for granted and spend less time reinforcing the nuts-and-bolts basics. And things start to come apart.

It’s the nuts and bolts that hold even the most sophisticated of machines together. That’s true for our sophisticated organizations as well.

Maybe Lighten Up a Bit

I’m reminded at this time each year of how many businesses really drop the ball on 24-hour marketing efforts. But it’s actually a non-commercial activity that reminds me of this. Christmas lights on homes always have me reflecting on simple practices to raise awareness of a location after dark.

There are homes and entire neighborhoods along some of my normal drives that I give practically no notice to during the day and absolutely none to after dark. But during this time of year, I find my eyes continually pulled to homes I’ve always ignored. In rural areas, some homes are noticeable from (literally) a mile away. Wouldn’t most folks dream of creating that kind of awareness of their branches?

And, well, doesn’t it also get dark in the evenings during other times of the year? (I’m just saying.)

While creative lighting sounds like an outside and stand-alone branch issue, it is just as relevant to in-store branches. Our retail partners operate much longer hours than we do.

Each day, there is a considerable number of customers visiting our stores while we are closed. When closed, many in-store branches unfortunately look like dark storage closets. The message delivered to a customer walking by is, “Move along. There’s nothing worth seeing here.”

Ask yourself this. Would you rent an expensive billboard along an interstate and then choose to keep it unlit in the evening? If anything, lighted billboards at night are considerably more eye-catching than unlit billboards in broad daylight. When darkness erases scores of other things that would normally compete for our eyes’ attention, things that are illuminated stand out.

Sure, some branch designs lend themselves more than others to creative after-hours lighting touches. But at a minimum, most branches can at least cast a spotlight on a promotional display or even a dry erase board. I’ve seen pretty effective “billboards” created by simply shining a spotlight on a handmade sign, surrounded by a darkened branch.

And flat screen monitors never “pop” more than when in darkened environs. Why on earth do some folks turn them off on their way out the door?

There are thousands of folks within eyeshot of your branches this week who are totally in the dark about where you are and what you do. Leave a light on for them.

The results could be illuminating.

People with humility don't think less of themselves... they just think about themselves less. » Ken Blanchard

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of any affiliated entities or sponsors.
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