I was trying to get electronic payments out to my partners and vendors before the end of the year. What should have been an easy process turned into a nightmare.
The bank I use for this business is a small community bank. It's a couple of blocks away from where we live, and I like to use the walk there to justify getting out of the house.
When I first signed up with them five years ago, the charm of a small, hometown bank drew me in. I was tired of being treated as an insignificant account holder at the major behemoths. There was one particular detail that made me happy each time too: the calendar date was always correct.
At the major institution I had previously been banking in, the little boxes that you flip to show the month and day of the week were always a week or more behind.
The one manual task that should have been systemized and done daily was never done. It was clear from that one detail that the people working the big bank lobby did not care. If they didn't take care of the simplest small details, how could their customers trust them with the big ones.
At my community bank, the date is always correct, changed by someone each day who cares or has been trained to care. The employees are friendly and personable and I never need to wait in a long line to be greeted by an overworked teller treating me like another account number.
But the small banks have drawbacks, too.
While the local employees are fast to respond, their hands are sometimes tied with certain requests. They want to help but can't. Their headquarters just don’t have all of the resources and services a big bank can provide.
Because of this, the amount I can pay out daily to my vendors is limited, and when I cross that limit, it locks me out of my account. This happened twice in two weeks. I had to call each time to unlock the account. When I left voice messages requesting to raise my limit, no one called me back. The account remained locked for extra days. I was frustrated. It was the end of the year, and I needed to complete these payments.
I came into the bank on the first business day of 2018 to find out why the account was still locked. I planned to finish the exchange by breaking up with them. It was time to move my accounts back to one of those national behemoths. I would once again be just another account number, but I at least would have the technical support I needed.
The employees were as kind and calm as they always are. They made the calls to unlock the account. They apologized for the additional delay. They told me that my requests had caused quite a stir in their corporate office, and they would be working on raising the limit on how much I could pay out daily. It would take two weeks to get the paperwork, they said, but they were committed to helping.
I nodded my head and thanked them. My weeks of frustration with them were still weighing heavy on my mind. I thanked them and got up to leave, when Robin, the manager, stopped me right before I was out the door.
And that was all that was needed.
I instantly smiled. I relaxed. My tension melted off my shoulders. She broke me out of my trance, she stopped me from playing the part of the customer who had been wronged.
She reminded me that while I am a client inside of an institution, we were still human beings together in a neighborhood.
She connected to me in a personal way that didn't feel forced or contrived.
And at that moment, she reminded me why I decided to do business with a small community bank in the first place. Because like anywhere else, we do business where we feel seen, heard, acknowledged and appreciated.
When someone at a business remembers your name or something about you or your family, and then acknowledges it in an authentic way, the emotional power of that connection will be the glue that holds that relationship together.
The lesson in this is that it all comes back to the individuals you hire. The people who represent your company are the ones that can make or break customer perceptions.
And no matter how great your brand may be, the reputation and customer loyalty is determined by the final exchange between employee and customer.
- So hire wisely.
- Train often.
- And then encourage your employees to make the human connections that can grow your business or save it when the time is right.
This relationship was saved because of one person, one sentence.
I would love to tell this community bank's management team about their wonderful employee. But they don't even have a Twitter account.