Human Touch

TouchingScreenCommunity banks are faced with a tough situation. Due to mistakes made by large mega banks, all financial institutions, including community banks, are encountering increased federal regulations.  The increased federal regulations bring increased operating cost and causing banks of all sizes to cut cost in other areas.

One way mega banks are trying to decrease expense is by replacing tellers with self serving kiosks. These kiosks are high tech machines that are similar to kiosks at airports.  These kiosks can do virtually anything:

  • Handle cash and check deposits
  • Withdrawal cash
  • NCR scanning capabilities

JPMorgan Chase is currently leading the way with these kiosks and have already added several of these machines in their branches.  The organization has stated customers enjoy using it and plan on expanding the service throughout the entire company.  This is causing other financial institutions, including community banks are looking to follow suit.

But if community banks follow this trend, will they be shooting themselves in their foot?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to build a debate against kiosk or even suggest it’s a bad idea for mega banks.  Heck, I have used kiosk before at airports and have been satisfied with them.  But is this the approach community banks should use?  After all for years community banks have prided themselves on customer service and personal touch.  Community banks can avoid a negative perception by considering other technology alternatives.

Negative Perception

Banks are already seen as emotionless and robotic.  Why add fuel to the fire by phasing out tellers with a kiosk?  Why not focus on building up your staff.

  • Education and Development: By providing training to your staff, you can start building your team internally.  Product knowledge, soft skills training, and learning how to uncover needs are three education programs a bank can start implementing. Another approach is teaching your tellers how to open accounts so that when the time is necessary, they can assist customers with that need and eventually be promoted.
  • Cross Selling Opportunities: How effective is a kiosk with cross selling?  People who constantly interact with someone will get to know them overtime and can offer solutions that a kiosk may not be able to uncover during a transaction.
  • Customer Service: When you need help solving a problem, what makes you feel more comfortable: speaking with a knowledgeable person or typing into a kiosk and searching for an answer?

Other Technology Alternatives

I understand the need to cut cost, but why not look for ways to cut cost and provide an outlet to communicate to customers.  Here are two examples that not only allow you to enhance customer communication, but can also provide direct advertising opportunities.

Electronic Statements

Electronic statements are a “greener” way to deliver information to your customers, while reducing expenses.

  • Cost Benefit: Save the cost of printing paper and paying for postage.
  • Customer Communication: When sending the email notification to your customer, add customized text that can promote a service or upcoming event at your office.

Mobile Banking

Depending on what type of mobile banking service you offer your customers you can receive a number of benefits.

  • Cost Benefit: Potential to reduce “account balance” phone calls to your offices; which allows staff to focus on other task.
  • Customer Communication: Provide push notifications about account balances, upcoming transactions, or special product pricing.

Finding ways to cut operating cost is essential in any business.  Just don’t loose focus on customer service when reducing cost otherwise you may end up reducing the number of profitable customer you have.



Basketball and HoopLast week while leaving lunch, I bumped into a current SEC basketball coach.  As we were riding on an elevator, the coach was asked what he looked for when recruiting a new player.  The coach quickly listed three things:

  • Leadership
  • Character
  • Teamwork

The coach was then asked,

How about talent?

The coach then stated,

That’s should already be assumed.  Why else would I be looking to recruit the player?

Now I’m not knocking the coaches last response; but nothing should be assumed when it comes to recruitment.  Whether you are in sports or in business, recruitment is a tough task.  Being able to scout talent, conduct great interviews and perform a background check are important steps when building a great organization.

Good Scouting

When looking for the right person to work for your company, consider the following questions:

  • Does the candidate fit your company culture?  Successful corporations make sure this answer is an emphatic yes.  Zappos is just one example of how a company can grow by focusing on people who already live by the values of their corporate culture.  Regardless of the size of your company, hiring someone who has the same values as your company is vital.  Just make sure it is not a “yes man” you’re hiring.
  • Does the candidate have the right experience?  Looking to hire a sales person?  Great, but what type of sales?  Do you want to hire someone with a portfolio and experience in your line of business?  By answering these types of questions ahead of time, you will be able to scout a great candidate and not get lost in the “hype” of the candidate.


After the initial scouting process, the next logical step is interviewing.  Depending on the job, this can be a short or long process.

  • How many interviews do you conduct?  Unless you already have a working relationship with someone, you should never hire someone based off only one interview.  Regardless of the position, at least two interviews should be conducted.  This allows for any additional questions to be asked and give both you and the candidate a better “feel” about the position’s needs/expectations.
  • How many people are involved in the interview process?  It’s nice to have a different perspective, but don’t turn the interview into a 12 person interrogation.  Having two people at one time during an interview is a good number.  This way a company can get more than one point of view, while the person being interviewed can still be in a relaxed setting.
  • Do you conduct a personality profile?  Personality profiles like DiSC are great tools to use when hiring a new candidate.  These profiles can offer a perspective about how a person interacts with people and shows you how best to communicate with a potential new hire.

Background Check

Overlooking a background check can really come back to haunt you.  A good background check can validate what a candidate has stated about their past and can help you get a better fill for a candidate.

  • References: Have some solid questions ready for each reference.  These are the people a candidate wants you to call, so be ready to ask some open ended questions that can shed light on a person’s experience, character and attitude.
  • Previous Employment: Previous employers usually don’t give out too much information, but you can at least make sure candidates gave you the right information about how long they worked somewhere.
  • Criminal and Credit Check: Never hurts to double check to see if a person is swimming in debt or has a shady history.  If something comes up, give the candidate an opportunity to explain the situation; it shouldn’t necessarily be a deal breaker…unless it’s something really, really bad.

Not every hire will be a perfect fit and may end with a termination, but by doing your part you can minimize hiring the wrong candidate.  Following the previously mentioned steps will help you find the right person and reduce the risk of hiring someone who may not live up to the expectation.

Customer Service vs. Customer Respect

Rodney Dangerfields Board GameWhen it comes to serving your customer, do you give them respect?

In sales, the most important aspect is getting the sale, but what happens afterwords is just as important.  Making sure your customer is treated well after the sale can lead to additional sales from the customer and create a strong referral source.

So, what do you do after the sale is done?  Most will answer with,

Give great customer service.

But what is great customer service?  A great answer will, at least, include the following these three items.

  • Customer Acknowledgement
  • Customer Resolution
  • Customer Appreciation

Each item is just as important as the other and together proves to your customer that you respect them.

Customer Acknowledgement

Do you call your customer by name?  Do you know what your customer does for a living?  Customer acknowledgement starts with knowing your customer’s name but goes way beyond that.  In banking, we use the term know your customer.  This means exactly what it says and, when done correctly, has a positive impact on customer service.

  • Compliance: When you know your customer you have done your due diligence by finding out important information.
  • Marketing: When you know your customer you can create target marketing and cross selling opportunities that have a higher Return on Investment value.
  • Service: When you know your customer you can provide extra services like Cash Management, Remote Deposit Capture and Mobile Deposit.  These services have a higher risk than standard bank services, but when you know your customer you can limit the risk factor while providing exceptional customer service.

Even though these examples come from the banking industry, it doesn’t mean they are exclusive to banking.

Customer Resolution

Regardless if you are selling a product or a service, a customer is going to run into an issue or problem.  What you do at that moment can have a lasting impact on future sales and successful referrals.

  • Speed: How quickly do you resolve the issue?  Quickly resolving the issue goes a long way for a customer, but “quickly” can mean different things.  Be sure to define what “quickly” is for your customer and get to it.
  • Accuracy: Does it take only one time to resolve the issue?  Issues that are often repeated can cause a headache for a customer.  Do your best to solve the whole problem the first time, so there won’t be a next time.
  • Empathy: How do you empathize with your customer?  Showing empathy is just as important as speed and accuracy.  Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and understand why the problem is such a pain.

These three examples in customer resolution ultimately boil down to communication.

Customer Appreciation

Everyone loves being appreciated.  Here are just a few examples of small tokens of appreciation.

  • Cards: It only takes a few minutes to mail a thank you card, a birthday card, or an anniversary card.
  • Meals: Taking a customer to lunch, hosting a lunch and learn or host a cookout at your office.
  • Gifts: A gift during a special occasion or holiday.

Of course there are other ways to show appreciation.  Just remember to keep your customer in mind by doing something they would see as appreciation.

So, do you give your customers respect, or do you leave them feeling like Rodney Dangerfield?

Getting to Know You

Smiling-Shaking-HandsWhen it comes to sales success, great salespeople are able to listen and respond accordingly.

A bank CEO once told me that when he is hiring a sales person, he chooses the one that is more introverted.  When asked why, his answer was simple:

An extrovert will talk you into a sale, then talk too much and lose the sale.

car-salesmanThough I don’t fully agree with this line of logic, I do understand the general idea.  A classic example is the pushy car salesman.  Most people go to a car lot for to find a car, but get anxious before they even get to the dealership.  The actual thought of dealing with a car salesman, not choosing an automobile, is the hardest mountain to climb for potential car buyers.  Think about that; dealing with the actual person worries people more than spending a lot of money.

How can salespeople come out on the winning side of sales?  One way is for both the salesperson and the buyer to be on the same side and not perceiving the interaction as a battle.  Not only does this mean the salesperson must be working with the buyer, but it also means the salesperson must prove that to the buyer.  By being an active listener, creating a connection and seeking a mutual win a salesperson can build trust and truly help the person buying.

Active Listening

Sounds easy, but people have trouble doing this.  Active listening is not just sitting back and nodding your head; it requires asking the right questions and staying focused.

  • Ask Open Ended Questions: Don’t just ask questions that result in either yes or no; ask questions that require real answers.  Another term for this is probing questions. The questions are based off the previous answer, which requires the person asking the question to pay attention to what is being said.  The goal is to get your buyer to really think about what they need and helps the seller understand what the buyer wants.
  • Listen and Learn: Focus on what is being said.  Take mental notes and don’t make assumptions.  For example, if the buyer states what they don’t like, find out what they do like.

Create a Connection

People do business with people they like.  Concentrating on closing the deal is good, but don’t make that the only thing you think about when dealing with a buyer.

  • Find Common Ground: Is there a certain interest you have with the buyer?  It can be as simple as liking the same color or rooting for the same football team.  By creating a common connection you are engaging a positive emotional element to the sales experience.
  • Don’t Prejudge: The hard part is not to be so determined to sale one particular product or service.  Come into this with an open mind and you may find out there are several products and/or services a buyer may need or want.

Mutual Win

You want what’s best for you and your business.  You also want what’s best for the buyer.  Why?

  • Making the sale: It’s the obvious answer.
  • Referrals: Good salespeople make the sale; great salespeople not only get the sale, but create a relationship that will result in more business.

So, when it comes to sales, are you good or are you great?

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