institution in any market.

1. Keep profitable customers for life. Profitable customers are an annuity that grows as the relationship matures. And long relationships make work more pleasant for bank personnel, who develop friendship and trust with the clients.

New customers, by contrast, cost money to bring in the door and take longer to reach peak profitability.

Banks need to build walls around established customers, to protect them from competition.

2. Earn a 100% share of every profitable customer's wallet. The more you cross-sell, the more profitable the customer will be -- and the more likely you will be to retain that customer.

If a customer has only a checking account with your bank, the likelihood of defection in the first year is 50%. But only one out of 200 customers with a checking, a savings, a safety deposit box, and a loan relationship with the same institution is likely to leave within a year.

3. Satisfy all financial needs. Customer satisfaction is a great predictor of retention, and satisfied customers are much more fun to serve.

This goes beyond customer service. Sales, for example, is service, and leaving financial needs unmet constitutes service malpractice.

4. Help your customers succeed. A bank's success is tied directly to the customer's. And a "best of class" bank is committed to its customers' success for reasons that go beyond shareholder value.

A bank is in the unique position of being able to make dreams -- of retirement, of wealth, of a wedding gown, or a baby's crib -- come true.

5. Be the customer's first choice. Customers of top institutions should have no reason to go elsewhere for financial products or services. Show respect for your customers by valuing their time -- by meeting their needs promptly and thoroughly.

6. Exceed expectations. Different customers will have different expectations, which depend on what they do and their previous financial service experiences. An effective retail bank will recognize this individuality and use its resources, including data bases, to go the extra mile.

7. Polish your reputation. Becoming the provider of choice entails more than just winning your own customers' confidence. It calls for being the first to come to mind. You reputation and brand identity must convey "best of class" characteristics -- best people, service, care. Flawless execution is required, at the individual and the department level.

Making these rules work means taking the customer's view and proceeding from that perspective day in and day out.

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