So, I’m in North Carolina, walking into about 30-40 branches for a new client and their competition to gauge the customer experience for each.

Cracker Barrel meets BankingOn the very first shop of the day, I walked into a picturesque credit union branch. The front was beautifully landscaped with fresh flowers planted. It had a front porch with rocking chairs. It was like Better Homes and Gardens, Cracker Barrel and a bank all collided into one wonderful mash-up. I was looking forward to seeing what life changing experience awaited me inside.

Through the front door, a nice woman greeted me as soon as I walked in, with the Southern hospitality you would expect from North Carolina. Big smile, slight drawl, I felt welcome.

This was the moment, my one big line in this play, “I’d like to see what kind of checking accounts y’all have.”

At this point, Mrs. Southern Hospitality could have gone in a million directions. She COULD have:

  • Shook my hand, introduced herself, and asked my name.
  • Asked me where I bank today and what kind of account I have.
  • Asked me how I use my checking account … how many checks I write, what kind of balance I keep? She could have asked if I use online frequently, what about mobile? With this info she could have taken all of their accounts and narrowed them down to ONE recommendation.

She did none of this. Man, I wish she had!!!

The very next words out of her mouth were about their checking account for folks age 55+!!! 

I’m sure that they had as free checking, probably an interest checking, maybe even one specifically for e-banking or with rewards … but she chose to lead with their SENIOR checking.

In full disclosure, I’m 45 years old. I know that I’m not in the shape I once was. I’ve traded in my six-pack for a pony keg around the midsection. I’ve gained some wrinkles and a splattering of grey hair … but I do NOT look 55!!!!  (Heck, judge for yourself and tell me if I’m being over sensitive – see my bio here)

With the biggest smile that I could muster, and trying not to sound too irate, I said, “Do I look 55?” Clearly meaning, “Shut the hell up, woman!”

At this point, Mrs. Southern Hospitality could have gone in a million directions. But she didn’t take the hint.

 “But it comes with free checks,” she persists.

          “But I’m NOT 55,” I lament.

For me, the shop was over right then. Sure, she went on to tell me about the rest of their accounts – still asking no questions to make a single recommendation. She handed me a nice looking brochure that I‘m sure some marketer had once stressed over every word and every image. She even handed me a business card and eventually shook my hand and introduced herself (while I was leaving). But the experience truly ended at the unintended insult.

In The Big Picture…

This credit union spent a ton of money on an immaculate, Southern Living-style building. They dropped some serious change on professional landscaping. They differentiated with a home-sweet-home feel with wooden rocking chairs on the front porch. While I never made it past the reception desk, I could see that the lobby was wonderfully decorated and inviting. Marketing budget was spent on a very nice brochure – I know because this woman read it to me like kindergarten story-time before we take a nap.

No expense was spared to make sure that I felt right at home while being told that I look a full decade older than I am.

People, I implore you, spend some time with your “experience” staff. Train them on something BESIDES compliance and operations. Make sure that they aren’t unintentionally saying something completely moronic. 

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