Brian is our plumber. Ricky repairs the sprinkler system. Ziad? Home renovation and repair. Mallory cuts my family's hair. Freddy and Butch tag-team my website work. And where would we be without Guy, the guy who fixes our computers?
But ask me to name our banker … and I'd be stumped. I can give you the names of the banks where we have accounts. But I would not be able to actually give you the name of anyone who works in these places. (By the way, my wife handles the vast majority of our household's banking, so I asked her. She doesn't know either.) And it's not like we're estranged from our primary bank.
I don't pretend that keeping bankers' names and faces in customers' minds is easy. But as our industry becomes more technology-driven and commoditized, it may be more important than ever.
Some folks are quick to suggest that we're talking apples and oranges here. Banking products and services, after all, typically do not require the kind of one-on-one interaction most of these other services do. Note that at one time they did. You'd see your banker (or some banker) more often than a hairstylist or repair guy. But these days, well, not so much.
When I give industry presentations, I usually throw up a simple slide when discussing this matter. It states, "Almost everyone has a bank. Fewer and fewer have a banker." I then like to half-joke about the fact that this doesn't seem to bother as many bankers as it should.
Hey, as long as we still have the "account," we're good. As long as customers identify with and favor "our brand," we're OK, right?
And sure, if you are in a position to blanket your markets with ubiquitous marketing and believe you can compete primarily on price and technology, I suppose you shouldn't worry. But if that's not you, I'd suggest a little concern.
I've had a few discussions with some marketing friends recently about what messages actually differentiate our banks in our commoditized environment. What are we actually promoting to folks that the other guys can't as well?
They've got convenient branches, long hours, mobile apps and "free or near free" services, too. They've also got extensive ATM networks or waive fees when they don't.
What the other guys don't have are your best people. But would a customer know that?
When a buddy of mine recently shared that his ATMs now display the picture and name of the branch manager closest to the ATM in use, I practically raised my hand and gave him a "Hallelujah." I'd be willing to bet that users of his ATMs are more likely to be able to name or even "picture" a banker than most in the general population.
A great side benefit of putting our best folks' faces and names out there is the impact it has on morale. Folks who are publicly treated as valuable and differentiating assets of a bank are even more motivated to act that way. When your company is willing to suggest that you are part of what makes them a customer's best choice, you feel more driven to prove that assertion.
I can't tell you how many flat-screen monitors I've seen in branches advertising things that few folks actually notice. But the handful of places that I've seen that periodically highlight the name, title, and picture of employees always stand out.
And as silly as it may seem, folks tend to hold people whose faces they see on monitors or printed material in a little higher regard.
Of course, another effective technique for increasing the name recognition of our bankers involves pretty sophisticated technology: 3.5" x 2" pieces of card stock. In a technology-driven, advertising-saturated environment, a hand-delivered business card still has meaningful impact.
And it's a seemingly vanishing activity. I've suggested to middle managers before that regularly asking their managers to give an estimate of how many business cards they handed out in the previous week accomplishes plenty.
Giving someone a business card almost always involves an introduction (or reintroduction) and a personal (even if brief) conversation. It helps keep actual bankers in folks' banking equations.
Most people out there have banks. Whether they still have bankers depends on our actions. Will your team members be front and center this month?
Dave Martin is an executive vice president and chief training consultant at NCBS, a SunTrust Banks Inc. subsidiary that offers consulting, training, design and construction services for retail banking programs. He can be reached at Dave.Martin@ncbs.com.