Blurring the Lines – Service to Sales/Customers to Clients – Making All Channels Work

I started my banking career at the age of 17. I was finishing high school/starting university and was lucky enough to get a part time job working as a Customer Service Clerk (CSC) at a bank in Halifax Nova Scotia.

The CSC position was essentially a teller. The only difference was that the CSC’s used cash dispensers with one centralized cash so only one teller had to balance at the end of the day for 5-6 CSC’s. It was an extremely high traffic branch and the model worked well.

I worked Thursday and Friday nights and all day Saturday during the branches extended hours. In fact everyone that worked with me were extended hours staff, meaning we had very little interaction with the regular staff. All of us were young, in university, and didn’t consider the work as anything more than a part time job so we tended to have a lot of fun.  As you can guess the vast majority of us did end up making a career of banking and I still maintain contact with most of that team.

The majority of what we did was cash paychecks, complete foreign exchange transactions for American tourists, and provide change for a large number of commercial business in downtown Halifax. It was purely transactional in nature.

At one point the cost of providing smaller bills and coin for the large number of commercial customers started to cost a little too much for the operations management tastes. We were the only branch of any bank open on Saturdays in the downtown core at the time and every commercial operation needing change on a weekend came to us.

Like any good operations team the branch set about solving the problem by making rules to reduce the cost. The rule was that only clients of the bank could get large amounts (more than $200.00) of change. At the time I didn’t think much of this. The job was only a paycheck for me and I really didn’t think the policy through. Besides it didn’t matter to me if you were a client or not. The only thing that mattered to me was the kind of business you had. If you were a bar in downtown Halifax you were getting change. I would explain the policy then make an exception just for them, as long as I was able to skip the line next time I visited their establishment.

What I came to realize later in my career was the opportunity that was being wasted by the bank. There was a service differentiation provided by the extended hours and a definite need by a large number of customers who just didn’t happen to be clients yet. If the operations team had been focused on building the client base they would have realized that the amount of time and effort it took to provide change to none clients would have been paid for ten fold by acquiring only a small number of the commercial accounts and associated financing from these businesses that were currently at other banks. Not to mention the possible cross sell on the retail side for the personal business of the owners and staff.  Instead of turning them away with an ill thought out rule they could have asked for contact information and a meeting with the owner or manager in exchange for the service provided. This way they could have built up a pipeline of commercial prospects and handed them over to the account manager for follow up turning the transactional service into a clear opportunity of turning a customer into a client.

I see these missed opportunities everywhere in banks. Normally the miss comes because of how the bank defines a “customer” or how they think about the traditional roles of their channels. For example there is a growing number of transactional account products that provide refunds for ATM transaction fees charged at other bank ATM’s. This is a product differentiation that is provided to clients of banks who perceive that their current bank has either poor or inconvenient ATM locations.

If we really thought about this for a second non-clients using your ATM’s is a perfect opportunity for a prospect client contact. What if a bank’s ATM prompted non-clients to come into the bank to provide marketing information in exchange for their ATM’s never charging another fee to them? Just because they do not have a product with your bank, meaning they are non-clients doesn’t mean they are not customers.  Unique ways to build prospect pipelines, create a positive customer experience, and turning a transactional channel into a lead generating sales machine are all required process improvements if you want a truly successful banking transformation.

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