I found myself pulled into a lively discussion/debate with banker friends recently about “winning strategies” for banks in the next few years. Everyone wants to know what everyone else is thinking and planning.
I’m regularly asked for my opinions on institutions that are “doing things right”.
I find that the more of these strategy debates I get pulled into, the more I find myself thinking about many of the financial services conferences I attend. The brain power at those things is impressive.
The speakers (especially the vendors) usually sound confident that they have it all figured out.
Having the opportunity to be one of those speakers on occasion, I remind the audience that our biggest challenges are usually not finding good or interesting ideas. And it’s not in crunching data or producing strategy documents. (I’m not trying to discount that stuff, by the way.)
But there is an attraction to the idea that we can outthink the competition. We’ll win by consistently being smarter than the other guys.
Hey, maybe some can. There may be folks out there head-and-shoulders smarter than the pack, whose ideas are bringing disproportionate results to their institutions. Sure, jump at the opportunity to hire one of those folks if you find him or her.
That said, I’d respectfully suggest that the key to success in our industry still lies not as much in outthinking the competition as in outhustling them.
It’s great if you have the biggest or best positioned branch network. Have the latest and greatest mobile technology? Fantastic! Offering the best rates in your market(s)? Great!
No, really… great. I’d rather have those things than not.
But I’m still going to bet on the organizations whose moving parts (employees) are moving the most. Who is dropping in the most on small businesses in their area?
Who has representation present at more community events?
Who is initiating the most personal conversations – within and away from their branches – with customers?
Who is shaking the most hands and kissing the most babies and generating smiles on the most faces this month?
Outhustling the other guys may not be what you’d put in a document as an official “strategy”. But it exponentially improves the odds of success of whatever you do put down as strategy.
A phone call this week with an employee of a Ritz Carlton reminded me of why some companies earn such loyal followings. And, no, I’m not entirely comfortable with how pretentious that sounded.
I’ve kidded for some time that the kind of travel I do is 50% great and 50% make-you-want-to-find-some-other-way-to-make-a-living. Airports and airlines are the necessary evils of the job…with the emphasis on evil.
But sometimes I get to stay in some not-awful places.
After doing a little research prior to this trip, I found that using a car service through the hotel was cheaper than a cab for the 30-minute-ride, or renting (and parking) a car for three days. So, I called the Ritz Carlton to see about lining up a car.
The young lady who answered the phone was training-video-level polite and helpful. She informed me she would be putting me through to their concierge who handled those things.
As I listened to the phone ringing, I wondered how many rings I would hear.
Before the fifth ring, the young lady came back on and apologized. The concierge was helping someone at the moment… but she would be happy to take my information.
I gave her my arrival time and flight number and expected to hear from the concierge sometime later in the day.
Instead, I received a phone call from that same young lady 3 minutes later to tell me that she had gone ahead and taken care of the reservation herself. She then gave me instructions regarding where to find my ride, asked if she could help me with anything else, wished me a safe trip, and said they were looking forward to welcoming me the next day.
Two minutes later, I received a text with the instructions she had just given me and a number to call if I needed any further assistance.
Now, my family loves me. But I doubt they would be as thorough on making sure I was taken care of.
And the incredible impression made upon me had nothing to do with fancy facilities or locale. It had everything to do with an employee taking personal ownership of making sure a customer’s needs were addressed and conveying appreciation for the opportunity to do so.
First class service isn’t about facilities. It’s about personal effort and conduct.
What level of service will your customers experience today?