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Thursday, October 01, 2015
Volume 21 | # 489
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Pessimism leads to weakness, optimism to power." » William James

Friendlier Skies

 Late last week, I was enjoying the kind of service I’ve come to expect over the past few years from airlines.

 It was predictably bad.

The lady making pre-boarding announcements had a tone that didn’t mask her frustration with us cattle…uh, passengers.  She seemed to think it was our fault that the 70 people in “Boarding Group 2” couldn’t quite get lined up in the space for 20 people that they gave us.

Once we were on the oversold, Greyhound-bus-in-the-air, we learned that the A/C unit at that gate wasn’t working properly.  But hey, it’s not like Houston is warm at 1:00 PM or anything.

The flight attendant making the pre-flight announcements apparently went to the same charm school as the gate agent.  It was quite the lovefest.

To make things even better, a young flight attendant from that airline was sitting in the middle seat near me.  Pam was deadheading on that flight.  The poor young lady was also sick.  

She did her best to cover coughs and sneezes over the two hours we shared recirculated air in that metal tube.  But I felt like I was in a Petri dish at 30,000 feet.

By the time I stepped off the plane 2+ hours later, my image of that airline was as low as ever.  Then, I reached down to hook my computer bag to my travel bag.  I realized the strap had fallen off in the overhead bin.  

With a connecting flight to make, I stood in the jet way wondering if it was worth fighting my way back to row 20 to possibly recover it.

As I stood there, Pam deplaned and asked if there was a problem.  I told her, “Oh, I’m okay.  The strap on my bag fell off in the overhead bin.  I’m waiting for the plane to empty.” 

Before I could say another word, she placed her bag near my feet and said, “Watch this for me.”  As she headed back onto the plane, I told her, “No, that’s okay.  You really don’t have to do that.”  

But she kept going.  Two minutes later, she walked out with a smile on her face and the strap in her hand.

She said, “I’ve got lots of practice swimming against the stream in crowded aisles.”  

I thanked her sincerely, wished her a speedy recovery, and walked away with a completely different feeling about my experiences with that airline on that day.

One gesture from one caring employee can have more impact on customers’ perceptions than you know.
What kind of impact will you make today?

Fewer Visits, Greater Impact

A buddy recently sent me an exceptionally good research piece by Accenture.  Their North America Consumer Digital Banking Survey 2015 shares some findings that I believe are a little eye-opening and others that I believe are confirmation of trends we’ve seen developing this decade.


While the entire report is interesting, one particular finding fascinated me.  Consumers were asked “What would your reaction be if your primary relationship bank closed your local branch?”  

81% of respondents said they would not switch banks.  

The largest portion of that group (43%) said they would use another of their current bank’s branches.  Smaller segments would increase ATM and digital channels use.  11% claimed it wouldn’t affect them because they do not use a branch.

A remarkably low 19% of consumers said they would change banks.  

In Accenture’s survey only 2 years ago, 48% said they would switch banks if their local branch closed.  (The survey did not include small business or commercial respondents.)

It would be easy for some to read that survey and conclude that branches are becoming irrelevant to consumers.  After all, even closing “their” branch doesn’t seem to bother them enough to run them off.  

I’d suggest that’s an easy, but wrong, conclusion.  They simply don’t need branches as often as before.   

One of my regular mantras to groups is that there is little question that branches will remain relevant to customers in the future.  The question is whether or not your branches will remain relevant.

Preferred alternatives to branch visits for most teller transactions continue to improve and proliferate.  With that, the total number of visits customers make to branches continue to fall.

That said, access to a branch for problem resolution, more-detailed banking matters, and actual human interaction with the companies we trust to manage our finances matter more than ever.  
Fewer total visits are not making individual branch visits less important.  On the contrary, each branch visit takes on heightened importance and resonates far longer with customers than before.
The impression your branch makes on a customer today may be the one he keeps of you for some time to come.  
Strive to make it a great one. 

Say and do something positive that will help the situation; it doesn't take brains to complain. » Robert A. Cook

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