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Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Volume 19 | # 442
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What may look like a small act of courage is courage nevertheless. The important thing is to be willing to take a step forward. » Daisaku Ikeda

Driving Customers Away

Technology continues to increase the ability and willingness of customers to “self-serve.” And the internet has inarguably become a (or the) preferred method of shopping for a majority of Americans.

The total number of opportunities companies (like banks) have for their live, breathing humans to speak with other live, breathing humans continues to shrink.

But as those opportunities become less frequent, they become more important, not less.

Technology is great, but it doesn’t differentiate or tilt the playing field. It tends to level it over time. Small operations, with the right investments, can appear every bit as capable and competent as far larger organizations.

And yet, it appears that many businesses fail to realize that if their employee / customer interactions are the weak link in their chain, their technology is not likely to save them.

We are in the process of choosing an online driver’s training course for our older son. Our state lists several “approved” programs on its website.

While the product each supplies is obviously similar to their competition, there are noticeable differences in the prices of some programs.

My wife called the first on the list to ask about the course curriculum. The person who answered the phone had to find someone else to answer questions.

When that person’s answers were pretty vague, she asked if that rep had ever taken or monitored the course. Well, of course, she hadn’t.

The next call was to a provider whose price was over $100 more than anyone else. My wife asked the simple question, “Why are you guys $100 more than everyone else?” The person on the other end said “Uh…let me put you on hold. I’ll find out.”

She later came on and said they charge more because they guarantee your student will not get in an accident during his first year of driving.

When my wife pointed out how ridiculous that statement was, she found out what they really meant was that they’d refund the fees if the student had an accident. Okay!

Credit card in hand, the search for someone with a clue on the other end of the phone continues. Hopefully, we’ll find one before my son turns 16.

Few things reflect more on a company’s perceived quality than the quality of its personal conversations. Will your team’s interactions today raise or lower customers’ opinions of your company?

Back to Training Camp

I had an interesting conversation recently with a person who heads up training for a rather large bank. One of the topics we talked about was the updating of “basic” training courses.

I suggested that subject matter experts also exist in areas besides our training departments.

Our more experienced managers and frontline employees are the most qualified to help us ensure that we’re teaching folks things that are actually relevant to success at their individual banks.

While running a branch network many moons ago, I would regularly joke with a few of my more successful and often “coloring outside the lines” managers that I was going to have to send them back to training.

The implied joke was that training was some kind of disciplinary action. (Sorry.)

It wasn’t until a little later that I realized that having successful folks retake or monitor courses for evaluation purposes could actually be a compliment to them. It’s akin to a football coach calling his best players into planning sessions to get their feedback on what is and isn’t working in (on) the field.

They can help us whittle away at items and/or subject matter that may warrant mentioning, but not comprehensive study. Or maybe certain material is relevant, but the delivery is ineffective.

In an environment in which training time prior to beginning a job is squeezed, it’s incumbent upon us to focus on what matters most and minimize the less pertinent.

Training that may have been absolutely spot-on just a few years ago may have weak spots in it now due to the changing dynamics of how we staff and operate our branches. Strong managers address any training deficits once an employee joins their team.

But not all managers are able to do that effectively, and their turnover rates tend to reflect it.

What areas (if any) would your team say are the gaps in preparedness of new hires? Have we asked them lately (or ever)?

What refreshers or new skills training would be on managers’ wish lists for themselves and/or their tenured team members?

As the way our industry operates evolves at an accelerating pace, institutions best able to assist teammates in developing and strengthening the skills that matter most now will have an advantage.

Training isn’t a necessary evil. It’s a key factor of continued success.

Are you tapping your best and brightest to continuously improve yours?

He who limps is still walking. » Stanislaw J. Lec

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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Dave Martin has become one of the most prolific writers in the banking industry. His columns and newsletters are read in thousands of financial institutions each month. His keynote presentations, seminars, and podcasts have an authenticity and humor that brings teams of all sizes and seniority levels together.

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