In approaching the question of what roles tellers are to play in our rapidly changing branch environments, I like to call the teller line the seller line.

In all the retail banking efforts I have participated in, teller referrals were the best predictor of banker sales productivity. Even in the age of on-line banking, tellers have the most "times at bat" -- opportunities to make contacts that ultimately result in product sales. Accordingly, teller job expectations have changed in many institutions.

It is paradoxical, however, that teller training and behavioral expectations have not changed, nor have many banks' teller-hiring practices. In other words, many are not doing a good job of adapting to new realities.

Some of the following practices should be in force:

Behavioral expectations, such as mentioning an available product with every customer contact and following scripts for product introductions.

Sales training that is incorporated into teller training and includes telemarketing and complaint-handling.

Clear productivity yardsticks that measure in terms of total referrals, percentage of them that are closed, and profitability.

Financial rewards and other recognition for sales effectiveness.

Teller lines will turn into seller lines only if we change our expectations of tellers and then enable them to succeed under the new definitions with additional training, measurement, and reward and recognition programs.

Without fundamental changes, only the natural sellers will catch on. Many others could end up flipping burgers for a living, getting paid the same, yet with much lower stress -- and job expectations.

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