The power of the pat on the back

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A recent phone conversation that my oldest son had with tech support at his university reminded me of a message I’ve shared with bankers for many years.

Over the course of almost 30 minutes, the tech-support person worked with my son deciphering why he was unable to access his student account via his iPhone. But this only occurred after what sounded like a long line of failed fix attempts.

As my son was ending the call, he thanked the technician for his patience and for being such a great resource for him. I could tell by the short interaction afterward that the technician may have been at first surprised, but then really appreciative of being so sincerely thanked.

I told my son, “That was really solid the way you thanked that guy for helping you. I think you made his day.”

He laughed and said, “I figured I had ruined his day because it was so hard to fix my problem.”

I then pointed out that helping students with technology problems was that technician’s job. However, simply being paid to do something doesn’t necessarily make many employees want to do a job to the best of their abilities.

Beyond that, thanking that technician specifically for patience makes it far more likely that that technician will show similar patience to the next student needing assistance.

One of the most requested topics I’m asked to speak on is helping customer-facing bankers improve customer experiences. And while folks have their own laundry lists of behavioral do’s and don’ts, I always ask them to consider that one of the most positive and lasting emotions a person can feel is being appreciated.

Furthermore, in a banking world filled with more and more provider options, simply being made to feel appreciated by a bank is more impactful than ever.

Conveying to customers — in word and action — that you truly appreciate that they have chosen you to serve their needs can be the difference between unremarkable and memorable customer experiences. Beyond that, customers who feel they are important to the people serving them tend to be more forgiving when things don’t go perfectly.

Customers may notice how efficiently and competently they are served within a branch. That said, an increasing number of customers visiting branches are there because they could not resolve an issue themselves through digital channels.

However, customers will almost always note whether they were made to feel valued and appreciated while being assisted. They remember if they’ve been sincerely thanked for their business.

Managers also should remember that employees will tend to display no higher levels of respect or appreciation to customers than what they, themselves, receive from their supervisors. Consequently, one of the best ways to ensure a team is showing the levels of respect and appreciation required is for managers to model those behaviors and set the example.

I’m cautious not to suggest that managers do not appreciate their teams’ efforts. I know they do.

In an increasingly stressful business environment, however, we can become distracted. Leaders begin to assume that their teams obviously know their hard work is noticed and appreciated. Those assumptions aren’t always accurate ones.

Good employees take pride in doing hard jobs and doing them well. But the best employees tend to burn out when there is a perceived lack of appreciation.

It may not discourage them to the point of actually leaving. But it can dishearten them about putting in more than the minimal required effort to get through the day. When that happens, a lack of engagement frequently manifests itself in a lower quality of customer experiences.

Managers should continually strive in word and action to let their team members know they are appreciated. Then, consistently ask the team members to go the extra mile to personally convey appreciation to the people who make your businesses and careers possible — your customers.

All will appreciate the domino effect.

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