Dear Community Banker X: Your technology is behind. Your ATM is dysfunctional and you don’t seem to care whether I can easily do business with you or not. I’m sending out an SOS.

You're a bank who advertises, sponsors lots of local events and has employees at all the chamber of commerce meetings. Maybe you’re wondering why your marketing isn’t working as well as it used to.

It isn’t the marketing that’s the problem. It’s something much deeper.

Here's a true story

Two weeks ago I needed to deposit a paper check at a local bank before it was open. The ATM couldn’t dispense an envelope so I scrounged up an envelope at the bottom of my purse only to discover that the ATM couldn't take my deposit either. I came back after hours (about 12 hours later) and the bank was still unavailable to do business with me.

I frustratedly drove around to the archaic night deposit drop. I stepped out of my car and slipped my envelope through the slot—after dark, which I really do not like—but not before I scrawled a note of frustration on the outside of the envelope.

Whoever opened for business the next day had to have seen my envelope because my online banking shows they received the deposit. Did he or she not read my message?

This bank really must not care because I haven’t heard a word. And it’s been two weeks. They’ve had plenty of time to make it up to me.

Bank Envelope: customer cry for help
A reenactment of my deposit envelope with a plea for customer service.

Bank Envelope

3 things that are terribly wrong about this story

1.) Employees haven’t been trained to care or act
Boiler-plate training manuals tell employees to smile, call the customer by name and ask “Is there anything else I can do for you today?” They make sure there are cookies in the lobby and the coffee is hot.

That kind of culture is fairly easy to produce.

What’s harder—and even more important—is creating a culture of problem-solving employees. People who will take responsibility and treat the business as if they were the owner, rather than sweeping the frustrated message into the waste bin with an "it's not my job" attitude.

A high performance brand has employees who take notice of the customers’ signals of frustration. They reach out with a call and a solution.

Is this bank so inundated with frustrated customers that they can’t possibly all be answered? If so, there are even bigger issues looming ahead.

2) Leaders know they’re sticky so they’re lazy
Every banker knows that once a customer is signed up for ACH paychecks, online banking and automatic monthly payments it’s a huge hassle for a customer to leave.

This makes some banks lazy. They think it doesn’t really matter: once they have the customer, he’s a customer for life. That may be so.

But if that customer is dissatisfied, he’ll never recommend that bank to a friend. And if he has new financial needs, I can almost guarantee he’ll go to another financial institution (recommended to him by someone else).

That means loss of repeat business, the extremely valuable Word Of Mouth recommendation—and profit.

3) Owners haven’t invested in the business
Customers don’t need a brick-and-mortar branch on every corner. Just as they have come to depend on Netflix and their DVR, they want their financial institutions to be available when they have the time to manage their finances. They expect technology that enables them to bank at their convenience. They also expect real people to help them when they call.

Owners must wisely invest in their business to be viable for the future. Those who put care into their brand, the employees and the technology will come out on top.

I’ve been lazy, too—but not any longer
How would your company stand up to similar scrutiny? The cleverest marketing on the planet won't help if you don't invest in the business of your institution.

I’m shopping for a new bank. I think I can manage the hassle that will get me to a relationship that is satisfying for both of us. Will you notice when I—and my money—are gone? Have a nice day.

For help analyzing your brand's true strength, contact Martha Bartlett Piland direct at 785.969.6203