The Advantage Letter by Dave Martin
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Thursday, May 15, 2014
Volume 19 | # 456
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Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. » Samuel Beckett

Just Dinking Around

I’ve frequently posed the following to banker groups: Let’s assume that I am a potential customer, living within the “market” of your bank/branch (however you define that market).

I may be a shopper of your grocery store or a resident of a nearby neighborhood to a stand alone branch.

Technology and reduced reliance on access to a branch has expanded my banking options exponentially. The financial services providers I can choose from now go far beyond the ones I can spot on a drive around town.

(Heck, we don’t really need hypotheticals. My older son’s first checking account was opened on a laptop computer in our home - with a bank we’re a customer of, but have never visited.)

My question to these banker groups is, “If I can bank practically anywhere and with anyone… why would I choose you?”

The first answer exclaimed by most is “Service!” I then offer, “Well, that may be why I would eventually remain a customer. But I don’t bank with you, nor really know anything about you. So… how am I going to be impressed by service that I never experience?”

That’s usually where a few eyebrows raise and the sounds of “Uhhhhh” and “Wellllllll” are heard. I assure folks that it’s not a trick question to stump them.

What it is, however, is one of the biggest challenges branches face. We sell products and services that customers really don’t “try”.

We’re not restaurants that customers can try with little trouble or downside. We’re not retailers selling impulse items that can be easily returned.

I’ve been teased by friends over the years for being excited when I find branch teams doing seemingly “dinky” little things like engaging folks with games and contests or handing out lollipops or any number of nice “trivialities”.

But contrary to what my more cynical friends tend to believe, seemingly “dinky” gestures can make big impressions.

They help folks who would otherwise have no opportunity to form an impression of you see, well… nice folks.

And as technology commoditizes our industry’s products and services, those positive impressions resonate more than ever.

Will folks bank with you simply because you make frequent, positive impressions? Well, probably not.

But it’s those impressions that can help put them in a frame of mind to actually consider it.

What impressions will you make this week?

Getting Carded

After 20 years of pretty heavy air travel, there are few things that I see or experience on an airplane that surprise me anymore.

I wonder sometimes if folks still realize they’re in public.

I don’t know when taking off shoes and socks and propping feet up on the seat back in front of you somehow became acceptable. Nor do I fully grasp what kind of obliviousness is required to bring pungent smelling take-out food to the back of an overcrowded metal tube in the air.

I’ve taken to putting the world on mute when on planes now. I put noise-cancelling ear buds on and turn the music up to “the-2-year-old-behind-me-can’t-out-scream-the-Foo Fighters” volume.

As I was zoned-out about an hour into a recent flight, I noticed the flight attendant making her way down the aisle. She appeared to be reading small cards and then looking for passengers.

She stopped at two or three folks’ seats on her way back and handed them something.

At first, I thought she was handing out tickets for connecting flights. As I realized that didn’t make sense, she reached me and asked, “Are you Mr. Martin?”

Well, I think that’s what she said. I was reading lips as music blasted in my ears.

She then handed me something that truly surprised me. It was the business card of the First Officer of the ExpressJet plane we were on.

On the back of it was a handwritten note that read, “Mr. Martin (18A) – Good afternoon! Thanks for flying with us today. We really appreciate your loyalty to United. Enjoy your stay in ATL and have a great night! Safe travels! – (signed) Tanner Johnson”.

I stared at that card like a caveman who had been handed an iPhone. I had never seen such a thing.

But after reading it a couple of times, I found myself thinking that I’ve been seated in first class on some flights and made to feel like unwanted cargo.

Here I was sitting in the “cattle car” section of a cramped regional jet and kinda feeling like a VIP.

My next thoughts were that I sure hoped the other pilot was, you know, paying attention and flying the plane while my guy was writing notes. (But I digress.)

The airline spends big money on programs and advertising to thank and retain customers. This pilot accomplished more than all of that stuff with an unexpected, personal gesture.

Will your team deliver your own first class gestures today?

Opportunity does not knock. It presents itself when you beat down the door. » Kyle Chandler

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

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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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