February 2007 Blog Posts

My late grandfather used to tell the story of the day he was going to switch banks. This was back in the days when banking was more personal and you knew the bank manager by name. You also new his wife and kids and exchanged Xmas cards.

Granddad had written a cheque for something from his checking account. For whatever reason there wasn't enough funds to the clear the cheque in that particular account, but there was funds in several other accounts. The bank dishonoured the cheque and sent it back as "insufficient funds". Granddad was highly embarrassed by that as he wasn't the kind of man to write bad cheques. He was so furious about this that he'd made up his mind he was going to switch to another bank. The next morning he went down to the bank fully intending to close out his relationship with that particular bank. Before he could make it to the teller, the bank manager came bolting out of his office, "Ah Mr. Beckett, I'm terribly sorry about this mix up, just this morning I put a bank cheque in the mail to Mr. X and I've taken the liberty of drawing the funds out of your savings account.  We of course only dishonour cheques when we absolutely have to and I'm terribly sorry about this. I told Mr. X in my letter that this was a bank error. Please come into my office. Mrs. Y can you please bring Mr. Beckett a cup of tea?"

Needless to say Granddad didn't change banks that day and he used to say that after that day he was even more loyal to his Bank than he was before. He told this story to illustrate what business really is. He used to say that business is looking after the genuine needs of customers. Focus on the customer and success follows, like a tree follows a dandelion. Actually he didn't say that last part...

I've always kept the story of that bank manager in the back of my mind. The story epitomises, to my mind, what personalised customer service and customer focus is. In today's increasingly impersonal world personalised customer service is pretty much impossible to do, and pretty rare. That's ok, I don't expected to be greeted by my first name when I go to the bank. What is timeless, however, is the bit about focusing on the needs of the customer. Like genuinely. Not just pretending you do, but actually, you know, walking the talk. But that's not really something you "do", its more of an attitudinal thing about who you "be". I say that because what you do flows out of what you be. And packed into that one little nugget is some wisdom you could take to the bank.