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Monday, August 01, 2016
Volume 22 | # 509
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Act the part and you will become the part. » William James

Tuning In to Customers

A recent visit to a musical instrument chain store reminded me that having happy employees is a nice thing.  Happy customers, however, are what actually keep the doors of a business open.  

One of our sons is redesigning his bedroom, and he asked for wall hangers for his guitars.  An online search showed that a local store we’ve bought guitars from had some.  We walked in to find that they did indeed have a few different selections.  

There were separate groups of employees in different parts of the store.  All were chatting with each other, and two were playing guitars behind a counter.  

When I would get close enough, I could hear them discussing music… with each other.

All throughout the store were shoppers walking around.  It appeared that several were looking up and around for an employee to walk by.  

I stood there with the thought that I like seeing people enjoying chatting with coworkers.  But I didn’t think these guys were clear on how that place might afford to provide coworkers.  

I have preached to many teams that the people who actually keep the lights on, pay the rent and provide their salaries are the folks in a store (or branch) who are not being paid to be there.  

We call them customers.

When I did walk over to ask a question about an unpriced item, one young man popped up to look it up for me.  After answering that specific question, he resumed his discussions with coworkers as my wife and I walked back over and stood in front of a rack of hangers, trying to figure things out.

We spent 15 minutes in the store… and she then ordered the wall hangers we were looking at on her phone… while we stood 20 feet away from that employee chat fest… from Amazon.  

With even a modicum of help, we would have been an easy sale.  However, when employees do not make personal connections, decisions tend to get made rather impersonally.  Low price wins out.

Will that rather large store miss the $50 or so sale they could have easily had?  Well, maybe not.  

But they likely gave up their spot as the first place we’ll think of to look for our next, larger purchase.  

Each person in a store or branch presents opportunities to build brand value in their minds.  People like doing business with people and places that show they truly appreciate their business.  

Will you and your team strike those chords this week?


Poke' Whatchamacallit

Like many parents, I’ve learned about the Pokemon Go phenomenon through my kid.  My younger son recently became obsessed with “capturing”…well… honestly… I’m not sure what.

I do get a chuckle out of whenever he happily announces he’s just caught some “rare” Poke’-something.  

After the most recent time he mentioned one, I joked that the rarest one they could create would require players to make eye contact and have a conversation with another human being.

He told me that was funny.  I know he didn’t mean it, but I’ll take what I can get.

While it is easy to rib my son about having his eyes always glued to a smartphone screen, it’s not as if kids his age are alone in that trait.  

Whether its video games, texting, Facebook, etc., more humans are walking around with faces pointed toward small screens in their hands than ever.

And truth be told, I probably logged a few hundred hours staring at my Mattel Electronic Football Game when I was his age. (Hey, those dots and electronic bleeps were mesmerizing.)

So, I argue with folks that today’s youth are not very different than we were.  They simply have far more options.  

What is a little different now is that adults also carry computers and gaming systems around.  We justify it by calling them “phones.”

While I have my differences with many of their predictions, I do totally agree with the “fintech” folks on the fact that modern mobile banking functions are table stakes in banking today.  

Smartphones will soon become the ubiquitous technology in history.  That’s…uh… not nothing. 

One of the things I do disagree with them on is this ubiquitous platform’s ability to differentiate one institution from another.  

If one institution rolls out something especially attractive to customers, competitors’ abilities to quickly copy or surpass it are only increasing.  Technology gets better, faster, and less expensive seemingly every day.

The banks and bankers that stand apart will use handshakes as much as handheld technology.  

In an increasingly depersonalized banking world, those who are the best at initiating and growing honest-to-goodness human relationships will survive and thrive as technology unceasingly evolves.

How many potential customers’ imaginations can you capture with personal conversations today?


People of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them.  They went out and happened to things. » Elinor Smith

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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