While most banks are discouraging customers from using tellers, Star Banc Corp. says it will pay customers $5 if they have to wait more than five minutes in a teller line.
Star Banc also guaranteed last week that checking and savings statements will always be accurate and ATMs always operational, that customer inquiries made before 3 p.m. will be answered that day, and that phone service representatives will be available around the clock.
Cincinnati-based Star pledges to pay $5 to any customer for every failure to keep one of those five promises.
The Five Star Service Guarantee was devised after 35,000 present and prospective customers were surveyed on how banks please or irritate them, company officials said. The guarantees apply to all retail, commercial, and trust customers of the $9.6 billion-asset company.
Star Banc fully expects to pay out some money, but it hopes the policy will help retain and attract customers, said Richard Davis, executive vice president of consumer banking.
The survey helped pinpoint people's top beefs, Mr. Davis said. Money paid under the program will come from the bank's marketing budget, he added.
"I think its a good marketing ploy," said Fred Cummings, an analyst at McDonald & Co. Securities, Cleveland. "Most of those things they're already doing."
Star Banc, which has heavily promoted its electronic products - including banking on-line, by telephone, and using enhanced ATMs and video kiosks - said paying people who use tellers isn't contradicting its other major marketing effort.
According to Mr. Davis, the branch system is the bank's backbone. Star Banc doesn't want to lose customers who still choose to do their banking the old-fashioned way, he said.
"We also felt remote banking began to smack of sounding like a technobank that wasn't consumer-friendly."
The incentives game is not new in banking.
Cleveland-based KeyCorp, for instance, offers a checking account in which customers are paid up to $1 a month to deposit their checks via ATMs rather than tellers. But that policy is strictly to get customers to use ATMs.
Last year First Chicago Corp. - now First Chicago NBD Corp. - paid 22,000 customers $10 each to enroll in its direct deposit program. First Chicago NBD also occasionally pays customers $10 to $25 to open checking accounts.