Lauren Solomon, a Chase Manhattan Bank vice president, often sparks a curious response from her colleagues. "People usually open their greeting to me with an apology," she said, laughing.
Actually, they're usually thinking of something they learned in one of her courses. Ms. Solomon is a career counselor of sorts. Her speciality is showing employees how to get ahead using dress, mannerisms, or other aspects of image development.
"There's this general concern, 'Oh my god, I don't really want to run into Lauren today,'" she said. "But there's also this sense that 'I've known Lauren a long time and this is not a problem.'"
Her job, created for and by her two years ago, entails developing and giving seminars for new tellers, insurance agents, investment counselors, and others. The idea is to help make the bank's retail personnel better at relationship banking, she said.
In those two years, she said, she has instructed more than 4,000 of Chase's people.
Ms. Solomon has a marketing background, and her interest in professional image development grew as she was doing related graduate work at New York University.
"My biggest advice is that you are the company, the brand, to the customer," she said. "There is no separation."
"This afternoon, I will have 20 new tellers in a classroom and we will talk for the opening half-hour about the concept of brand," she said, along with what makes customers brand-loyal.
Next, she said, the tellers will put themselves in the place of the customer and view slides of differently dressed model tellers. "They will discuss how they feel if they were the customer with, say, a check for $10,000 in their pocket and they came in to seek investment advice from someone like this."
Other skills she teaches include how to build a wardrobe, the basics of business etiquette, tone of voice and language, body language and gesture, and dining etiquette.