The Advantage Letter by Dave Martin
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Thursday, January 01, 2015
Volume 20 | # 471
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Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can play weird; that's easy. What's hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity. » Charles Mingus

Feels About Right

I’ve half-joked with bank management friends for the past decade or so that we may be looking in the wrong areas when recruiting “retail experience” for branches. I kid that instead of looking for sales experience, we should maybe be looking for return-desk and customer service hotline experience.

Larger percentages of the folks who actually walk into a traditional or up to an in-store branch are there – at least in part - for problem resolution. Most of the easier problems we once addressed at our branches are now handled remotely.

We are being increasingly presented with slightly more complex and possibly relationship-altering situations. Customers can either leave feeling alienated or feeling better about trusting your institution with their financial matters.

Studies have shown time and again that customers who have problems satisfactorily resolved actually show higher levels of loyalty than those who never experience a problem.

(And no, generating problems for customers in order to satisfactorily resolve them is not a suggested best practice.)

With my long history of preaching on the subject, a recent column in Fortune magazine by Geoff Colvin entitled “Employers Are Looking for New Hires With Something Extra: Empathy” grabbed my attention. Even tech companies not known for employing “people” people are finding the benefits of hiring collaborative, empathetic employees.

When Colvin ponders how providers of increasingly commoditized products will distinguish themselves in the future, he easily could be referring to financial services providers.

In that vein, Intuit’s CEO, Brad Smith, asks an interesting question when evaluating the software products they now produce: “Did it leave me with a positive emotion?”

I’ve long held that true competence in customer-facing jobs is not simply about doing what needs doing or in having the correct answers to questions. It’s also about interacting with people in a way that humanizes the experience and creates positive feelings.

Increasingly, our team members are the human interface of online operations. Our customers can find banking “competence” just about anywhere.

Whether or not they can find a bank or C.U. that makes them feel as appreciated is altogether another issue.

How will yours feel today?

Gone Grill

My family and my wife’s sister’s family spent a few days under the same roof recently, visiting their parents in Louisiana. It’s an annual event that - while I’m not saying it reminds me of the Christmas Vacation movie - I’m not saying that it doesn’t.

On one drizzling, dreary evening my brother-in-law and I decided that heading to a restaurant would be too much of a hassle. Instead, we’d stay home and barbecue.

Of course, we maybe should have checked on what kind of equipment we were dealing with before announcing that at 6:00 PM.

It turned out that my father-in-law’s 25-year-old gas grill wasn’t the safest thing to pump propane through and hold a lit match to. (I think something may have been living in it.)

And the charcoal pit I recalled him having is apparently in a landfill now.

We then found out that the local hardware store was closed for the evening and the nearby grocer only had gas grills…in boxes…that we didn’t feel like assembling.

Slightly more-sane individuals would have called off those particular cooking plans. But the slightly more-sane individuals in our families weren’t given a vote in the matter.

MacGyver would have shaken his head at what ensued. When a barbecue involves the parts of one rusted grill, one broken smoker, an old lawn chair, a power drill, a large fan (to ventilate…duh), aluminum foil-constructed hardware and tools, duct tape (because, duct tape) and enough lighter fluid to put a projectile into low orbit…you’ve got the makings for a segment on Cops: Christmas Edition.

And against all odds (and family predictions), everything turned out great. When kids who don’t usually compliment food said, “Hey, this is good,” I knew we had our own Christmas week miracle.

The fact that something we’ve easily done a thousand times took a crazy amount of effort and Plan B’s (and C’s) made the final results that much more rewarding. (And in a weird way…fun.)

Most of us will face any number of less-than-ideal scenarios and surprise obstacles this year as we strive toward the goals we’ve set for ourselves.

Keep your determination, creativity, and sense-of-humor about you and you’ll be far more likely to reach those goals.

The path to get where you want to go might not be quite the one you envisioned, but it may turn out to be an even more rewarding one in the end.

If you keep at it, one day something which at first appeared impossible will become merely something very difficult indeed. » Danny Paradise

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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