Interesting. I called it “My” Bank. Why did I do that? Merely because its the institution I’ve used for several years?
I remember why I chose this bank to begin with. I’d just moved to a new community to take a job with a company which required direct deposit of all payroll checks.
I chose this bank because it was directly across the street from my office.
Not because they offered free checking (they didn’t), or for the vast number of their ATMs (which they didn’t have in this community). I didn’t even choose them because they were “big enough to handle my needs but small enough to care.” The bank in question was owned by one of the biggest bank holding companies in the U.S., and since then they’ve been acquired by an even bigger company.
(Side question: “My” bank changed owners two years ago. Are they still mine? Probably. I haven’t noticed any significant changes other than the signage.)
Nope. All of the reasons banks put in their ads about why I should choose them meant nothing to me. I chose by location, and accepted everything which came with the package: the hours of operation, the fees, the interest rates… all of it. After I went into business for myself as a marketing consultant I opened a business account with the same bank.
Flash forward with me.
A couple of weeks ago, I, an otherwise satisfied customer, closed out a brokerage account and deposited the funds into “My” bank account. I hadn’t brought a deposit ticket with me, so I had to ask the teller for a blank deposit slip and to look up my checking account number.
I was told there would be a minimum ten day hold on this check, so that it could clear the issuing bank. Knowing this to be standard policy for many banks around the country, I merely nodded, took my deposit receipt, and left for my office.
On the eleventh day I called to ask about my deposit. I was told the hold on my check was for ten “business days.” Oh. Business days. OK. Because of the weekends, another four calendar days, I guess.
On the fifth day following, also known as the eleventh business day – called by most people the seventeenth day after – I checked my balance online and found the check had still not been credited to my account. I started looking for the bank’s phone number. It took far more effort than it should have to locate the national 800 number for the bank holding company.
I spoke to Rita in customer service. “Rita,” I asked, “what’s the point of requiring me to punch my account number into the phone, if you’re just going to ask me to repeat it when you come on the line?” Rita had no answer, other than their system couldn’t transfer the number with the call.
I asked that she explain why the funds from my former brokerage account had not been credited to my checking account. Rita assured me that the hold up was the fault of the issuing bank. I politely suggested that wasn’t likely, but that I would follow up with the brokerage.
The brokerage house didn’t leave me on hold.
Nor did their system drop my account number when transferring me to a human in account service. Ron looked up the check, and assured me that it had cleared their bank three days after it had been issued (in other words, two days after I deposited the check).
Some serious Google searching for another few minutes and I finally located a number for the local branch, which I dialed. I got the branch manager’s voice mail, hit “zero,” and was transferred to the receptionist. After checking, she told me that my funds would be available the following day.
“Why are those funds not available now?” I wanted to know. I was told that until midnight, they wouldn’t know how much money they’d received in the transfer from the other bank. (No, I am not making this up). “You’re a bank. You don’t know how much money people are sending you?” I asked, incredulously. Again, I was told my funds would be available after midnight.
So, the following morning I logged on to the bank’s on-line banking service to find the deposit had been made into my business account, rather than my personal account. I assumed a trip to the branch was in order.
Picture this layout
Walking through the door puts the tellers on the left, the office cubicles on the right, a waiting area with couches and coffee on the back wall, and the receptionist desk in the middle of the big open area.
I approached the receptionist, who was busy ignoring me and curtly answering questions on the phone. I recognized her voice (and attitude) from the day before. The receptionist explained even though the customer had personally brought a check to the bank yesterday morning, that didn’t immediately put funds into her account. Her deposit wasn’t counted until midnight, and the check she was attempting to cover had been presented for payment yesterday afternoon. (Again, I’m not making this up).
Finally, when she asked how she might help me, I dragged a chair from an adjacent desk and settled in. I showed her both checkbooks. I explained that the deposit had been made in the wrong account, and asked her to make it right.
As she silently whacked the keys on her terminal an older woman, using a cane to steady herself, walked to the desk and asked, “Miss, can you tell me how much longer it will be?” The receptionist stated in a cold, professional voice, “I’ve told them you’re out here.” The older woman said “We’ve been waiting forty minutes. My friend gave me a ride, and she has another appointment soon.”
Without making eye contact the receptionist said “I don’t know what to tell you,” and went back to ignoring the woman.
When my transfer was complete, and the new receipts printed, I left. The older woman was looking at her watch. The receptionist was avoiding eye contact with the gentleman who’d been waiting his turn to speak to her.
I’m trying to decide whether to call the branch manager.
On the one hand, if I was the manager and didn’t know of poor customer service, I’d appreciate having it pointed out. On the other hand, this woman’s desk is in full view (and earshot) of six teller windows and four loan officer cubicles. I suspect all of the other employees have seen this behavior regularly. If that’s the case, why doesn’t the manager already know?
Should I call? Do I care? Will I move my accounts?
Truthfully, I don’t believe that the next bank will be any different.
What’s the difference between Bank of America and Sun Bank? Between Wachovia and Chase? Between Fifth Third and Wells Fargo? Can anyone articulate even a slight difference?
I can’t, and I’m paid to find and exploit those differences.
Bank advertising is so homogeneous we could probably exchange logos and no one would notice. (Except maybe for WaMu. Their ads are much more memorable. They don’t offer anything their competitors don’t, however. In the end they only have more clever advertising).
We can’t find the differences because there aren’t any. They all keep the same hours, pay the same interest rates, charge the same interest rates, offer the same free checking, and have coffee in the lobby. They all have the same automated tellers and charge the same fees for using someone else’s automated teller. All are “big enough to serve me and small enough to care.”
I should hope so. Who’d do business with a bank that can’t even reach the minimum criteria for entering the game. Telling me that you’re just like everyone else in your industry effectively makes you invisible.
I suspect many people choose banks as I did: they pick the one on the closest corner. And if that is the case, the only way any bank will gain market share will be to build on more corners.
Of course, the capital outlay required for this strategy will severely cut into operational profit, and the shareholders will probably revolt.
If I’m right, people don’t change banks because they perceive any advantage in the new bank. They only change when they’re upset enough to refuse to do business with the current institution. Advertising under these circumstances can only try to attract the attention of someone who’s getting ready to abandon her current bank.
That person is likely to choose the next bank based on location and convenience.
Isn’t it time for concierge banking?
Isn’t it time for someone to open a bank that caters to the needs, perhaps even to the whims of the customers? Wouldn’t you be willing to accept a lower interest rate on your savings in order to have a bank call and say “If you can get a deposit to us before midnight tonight, we won’t have to bounce this check?”
That only happens to me a couple of times a decade, but I’d be intensely loyal to a bank that cared that much about me.
Because when all of your competitors are pretty much the same, its not your advertising that drives market share. Its the way you treat customers. The way you do business.
I’ll be reinvesting the funds from my brokerage account. None of my investments will be in bank stocks.
And I still haven’t decided whether to call the branch manager about the receptionist. What’s your opinion? Should I bother?
Can massive amounts of advertising draw in more customers than service drives away? An important decision when you’re fishing for customers.
Got questions about differentiating your company from your competitors? Drop Chuck a note at [email protected] Or call him at 317-2073-0028.