Thursday, September 20, 2007

Banks, are they all the same?

I read the latest blog post from Chuck McKay (He emails it to me), last night right before shutting down my computer and thought about a friend of mine in the banking world that is different from the rest. Her name is Deb Moser, and when I first met her a couple of years ago, I was impressed by the difference she brought to her profession. She is a rarity, and I hope her colleagues and superiors know what she does to set herself apart from all the other bank folks out there.

Contact me and I'll pass along her contact information and tell you why I believe she is exceptional in a world of banking mediocrity.

Now, here's the e-mail I got last night from Chuck McKay:

Hi Scott,

Are you influenced by your bank's advertising? Please enjoy...

A Banking Story - The Ten Day Hold

I've just had an unpleasant experience with my bank.

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 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?

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The latest bunch of random stats focused on our youth.
Volume 1 Issue 8
September 12, 2007


One in three parents think it's more likely their 6-10-year-old will be elected president than eat the recommended 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, according to General Mills and Kelton Research.


60% of 12-18-year-olds spend an average $417 each on an overnight group trip, according to Student and Youth Travel Association.


More 13-24-year-olds take illegal drugs to cheer themselves up than download or share music for free (43% vs. 17%), according to MTV and Associated Press.


18% of high school students took material from someone's computer or website without permission, according to a University of San Francisco study.


40% of teens aged 16-19 worked a summer job this year, according to the Department of Labor

Youth Markets Alert (YMA) identifies the latest trends among U.S. children, tweens and teens. Download a free sample issue to discover how twice-monthly case studies, research, contacts, and industry sector analysis connect you with young Americans' $200 billion in spending power.

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Another local Blog to check out

This time it is written by Emily Osbun Bermes. Emily is the founder and president of Solstice Coaching & Consulting, a Ft. Wayne based organization that is making a difference in the lives that they touch. Emily, Guen and I met for lunch to discuss some ideas and then I sat down to read the blog that she told me about. Hopefully, she will have the time to keep writing. In the meantime, there are 11 posts on line that you should read and see how it affects your perspective and outlook.

(Click on the underlined portions and you'll go to their website and blog)

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35 cultural trends that (should) change the way you do business

This is from Scott, "the name-tag guy":

1. The Paradox of Choice. There are more choices than ever before – approaching infinite. So, people are just going to pick the best choice. Often times, it’s the first choice. Are you at the top of the list?

2. Time isn’t on your side. There are more thieves of time, attention and mental energy than ever before. You’re not the only important thing in your customers’ lives.

THINK ABOUT THIS: if you stopped advertising, would anybody even notice?

3. Nobody notices normal. Not any more. Now, this doesn’t mean there’s anything WRONG with being normal. However, positioning you, your business and your value as “normal” is like asking prospects to find a needle in a stack of needles.

REMEMBER: our society rewards the exceptional. And those who get noticed get remembered; and those who get remembered get business. Are you noticeable?

4. What? Huh? According to Wikipedia, the human attention span is about six seconds. Can you deliver value and pique someone’s interest in that window of time?

5. Our culture demands specialists. Being well rounded is overrated. More Narrow Focus = More Big Opportunities. Have you picked a lane yet?

6. Confusion. Most of the world does not understand what you do. The majority of service offerings are poorly defined. Plus, there’s a professional mystique to most job titles. So, don’t use jargon that alienates the public. Don’t give them a reason NOT to investigate your industry further. Are you using real, simple language?

7. BEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!!! People are bombarded every day with 3000+ marketing messages and are TIRED of being interrupted. Patience is at an all time low. And customers want music, not noise. Is your marketing interrupting or interacting?

8. It’s a GOTCHA! Culture. People just LOVE to prove others wrong, make them feel and look stupid and point out their inconsistencies. Are you maintaining consistency?

9. The limited window. According to The Wall Street Journal, first impressions are formed in about two seconds. As such, the only thing people can really make judgments about is how you made them feel in those few seconds.

QUESTION: Are you doing everything you possibly can to make this person feel comfortable engaging with you?

10. WOM Wins. Businesses grow because customers tell other customers. Who’s talking about you? And how are you monitoring that?

11. Hurry up! People like brands because they are decision-making shortcuts. What shortcut do you provide?

12. Be the first. The world is competitive, and customers can only pick one. So, people are most likely going to pick the best. What are you the first hit on Google for?

13. Unique, not different. The world is CRYING for uniqueness.

NOTE: that’s not the same thing as being “different.” Different means “to stand out” and unique means “the only one.” Are you the echo or the origin?

14. Perception is reality. It doesn’t matter if you’re the expert; it matters if you’re the PERCEIVED expert. Perception is reality. You need to be the answer to something. What topic are you the go-to-guy for?

15. How do you like me? People either check you on, or check you off. Quickly. And they usually maintain those initial impressions because of an innate desire to maintain consistency with one’s actions.

ASK YOURSELF: Are you non-checkoffable?

16. Don’t sell; enable people to buy. Don’t count on your audience to connect the dots. Grab them by the shirt collar, pull ‘em in close and DELIVER-YOUR-UNIQUE-VALUE. Are you making it really, really obvious?

17. Smarty pants. Because people have access to more information than ever before, customers are smarter than before. How many books did YOU read last year?

18. Transparency is a must. Because of the mass media’s broadcast of corporate scandals, trust is at an all time low, and bullshit meters are at an all time high. Only the authentic survive. And you need to create greater trust on both sides of the sale.

DUDE: What have you done (specifically) in the past 24 hours to enhance your credibility?

19. Preoccupation. Customers need you to give them reasons why they won’t regret purchasing this later. Reinforce their buying decisions right away. How are you disarming buyer’s remorse?

20. Don’t please everybody. No matter what happens, about 10% of the people in the world aren’t going to like you or your ideas. Don’t sweat it. Forget about the 10; stick with the 90. If everybody loves your brand, you’re doing something wrong. Are you polarizing people enough?

21. The Working Hard Myth. People only give you credit for about 10% of the work you do, because 90% of it is never seen. How good is your 90?

22. It’s a MY Culture. Because of the exponential growth of Internet, humans now have instant access to infinite amounts of information. This creates a hyperspeed, infinite-choice society where customers are going to get WHAT they want, WHEN and HOW they want it.

REVERSE YOUR MARKETING: don’t aim; be aimed at.

23. It’s an Eggshell Culture. People are terrified of offending others. We live in a touchy, oversensitive culture resting on the shoulders of a million eggshells. Are you apologizing when you did nothing wrong?

24. Clients need to know they’re getting YOU. Because they don’t trust corporations, they trust PEOPLE. Tangibility, not magnitude. How well do your customers know YOU?

25. Customers crave simplicity. That’s it.

26. Customers are impatient. And they want the best. The ONE. The Guy. The Man. Are you That Guy?

27. Enabling people to buy. Customers are only going to do business with you if they’ve heard you, heard OF you, or someone they TRUST has heard of you. Who’s heard of you?

28. We live in a culture of sales resistance. Consumers are skeptical and require confidence before deciding to buy. They’ve been advertised to, marketed to, duped, fooled, conned, scammed, sold and screwed over too many times. How are you any different than every other salesperson out there?

29. Loyalty is a joke. And here’s why: big companies don’t realize that people aren’t loyal to big companies! They’re loyal to people. Not to mention, it’s not about satisfaction or even loyalty anymore. Those are par for the course. Do customers INSIST on you?

30. Prospects rely on familiarity. Which is good, because familiarity leads to predictability. Predictability leads to trust. And TRUST is foundation of all business. Are you somewhat predictable?

31. IF they want you, they’ll find you. What happens when someone googles YOUR name?

32. Who are you, anyway? People don’t want to hire consultants, speakers, trainers or recruiters. They want to hire smart, cool people who happen to consult. Or speak. Or train. Or recruit. Or whatever. Are you smart and cool?

33. People buy people first. Which means: lead with your person; follow with your profession. Values before vocation. Individuality before industry. Humanity before statistics. Personality before position.

WHICH MEANS: if customers like you, they’ll find a way to buy from you. If customers don’t like you, they’ll find a way NOT to buy from you too.

SO REMEMBER: if they like you as a person, they MIGHT buy from you. But if they don’t like you as a person, they DEFINITELY won’t buy from you. How likable are you?

34. People respond to policies. How do you tell people “how you roll”?

35. The longer they take, the less they buy. And a confused mind never buys. Complexity = Contemplation = Lost sale. How are you expediting your sales cycle?

What other cultural trends are changing the way we do business?

Add yours to the list!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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How One Big Idea Can Reel In The Customers

This is from Jim Meisenheimer:

One big idea. When working with your prospects and customers focus on their needs and their customers' challenges. That's where the ideas are.

One big idea. Imagine you sell shower curtains and shower rods to hotel chains.

You call on hotel chains. You want to be different. Your big idea is to help hotels to differentiate their sleeping rooms is a bowed shower curtain rod.

In the shower - the space is the same, it just feels bigger and better. Why can't a sales person think up big ideas like this?

One big idea. Everybody and his mother and grandmother has Pyrex measuring cups in their kitchen cabinets.

They lasted for years and demand was declining. One big idea - change the handle to make the measuring cups stackable and the rest is history. Sales take off!

Big ideas are everywhere! But you have to be looking for them. They're not going to tap you on the shoulder and say "Here I am - ready or not!"

Big ideas are the result of one basic question.

It's an easy question and it seldom gets asked. It's the incubator for all big ideas.

You'll be amazed how customers will respond to you if you ask this question once a day.

Your customers will be delirious if you asked this question on every sales call.

Guess what - when you ask this question often you will attract the big ideas that you can share with your customers.

The question that leads to big ideas is "How can we do it better?" Keep asking this question and your plate will soon be filled with big ideas you can share with your customers.

Big ideas can win customers for a lifetime!

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