Being a marketing consultant who solely works with community banks and credit unions, I’ve had the opportunity to walk into hundreds of banking offices from all over our great country.

If you’ve read my book, Aha Moments, you’ve seen some of the crazy “$#*! Bankers Say,” and you’ve learned how to have, “Disney Service in Your Branch.” If you’ve seen me speak for association conferences, you’ve likely heard some of the unbelievable stories of banking service gone wild.

You might expect that the best experience I’ve ever had in a financial institution would have come from a credit union or smaller community bank. But, it came from Bank of the West, a $86 BILLION bank, from a branch in Santa Barbara, California. What made the experience so wonderful?

It was a typical, picture perfect, southern California day. The car rental company had upgraded me to a convertible, so life was good. I was on day three of a four-day branch shopping marathon along Highway 101, from Santa Maria to Los Angeles … not a bad gig at all!

I walked into a clean, but forgettable bank branch, and walked past a platoon of new account desks – lined-up to my left side – to a long teller line that faced the front door. I remember nothing about the branch décor. There was an open teller, so I strode up to him to perform my well-rehearsed line:

“I’m looking to move my checking account and I’d like to see what you have to offer.”

Then the magic happened. This teller switched from transactional “service” mode to one of sales “experience”:

  1. He shook my hand from across the line and introduced himself.
  2. He asked me where I bank now, what kind of account I have and what I didn’t like about it.
  3. He shared with me that he has a Bank of the West checking, that he loves, and his account addresses many of my frustrations with my current account.
  4. He asked me if I had time to sit down with someone for a few minutes to learn more.
  5. He walked around the teller line and escorted me to a new account desk (where the new account person stood up to greet me).
  6. He made a formal introduction, “Eric, this is (So-and-so) he can tell you everything that you want to know about checking accounts. (So-and-so), this is Eric, he’s currently banking with (Whoever) and doesn’t like how they (whatever I said), he’s interested in bringing his checking here.”
  7. As he was walking back to his assigned teller window, he stopped and asked, “Eric, can I get you a bottle of water while you’re here?”

In short, this teller:

  • Was welcoming and courteous
  • Treated me like a guest in his home
  • Used a personal example of product benefits
  • Untethered himself from the teller line
  • Moved me from an informational transaction to a sales opportunity
  • Made the New Accounts person’s job easier
  • Offered me water!

He did NOT:

  • Hand me a brochure
  • Tell me about EVERY checking account they have
  • Try to do everything himself
  • Point to anything
  • Try to hurry the interaction

Is this what I’ll experience when I walk into your branches?

I doubt it. I’m not hating on your bank or credit union, it’s just that, after hundreds of shops, I rarely get this kind of attention to detail.

Don’t worry, it’s not completely your fault.


Think about your staff training. How much is focused on operations and regulations? 90%? 95%? 100%?

With the time and resources that remain, how much of your staff training is focused on SERVICE? Using a name, smiling, essentially doing your job like you give a $#*!.

Is there any time left for training on EXPERIENCE?

Service and Experience, What’s the Difference?

Have you noticed the words that I keep using? Are they the same words that you and your management team use with your staff?

Service: is transactional and functional.

Experience: is attention to detail. It is the emotional element that supports your brand. In addition to personal interaction, it includes every touchpoint:

  • Branch design and flow: How do I feel in your branch before anyone utters a word?
  • Marketing flow: When I respond to a call to action, does the experience match the ad’s promise?
  • Website: Is it easy to use and can I learn what I want with limited clicks? Can I easily conduct business online?
  • Technology: Does it work … with limited actions?
  • Process: Back office process should be practically invisible to a customer. They just want their approvals, plastics or whatever as quickly as possible with no hassle.

You can get good service anywhere: the gas station … McDonalds … Wells Fargo. It’s something that you should expect. You can train any monkey to do it.

But, true experience is the ultimate differentiator – the hardest to attain, but the most important. It will set you apart from the lackadaisical competition. You don’t just train for it … you hire for it. It is a cultural game-changer from the CEO’s office down to every employee.

You’ve been warned. The next time I step into one of your branches, I’m expecting to be wowed!

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