It’s all about people!

Home It’s all about people!

Everyone has moments in life where important decisions are involved. I’m at a point of selling my house to start building a new one. This involves a lot of thinking, but most of all a lot of talking. You have a lot of decisions to take and a lot of parties are involved or consulted. Your partner, children, family, friends, banks, accountants, architects, city council, construction companies …

Depending on the stage you are in, you involve different channels to inform yourself. (cf. the McKinsey model on consumer journey) But the consumer journey stage is not the only influencer of the channel. It also depends on the topic being e.g. a loan, a construction type…

In this blog post I want to go in detail on the choice for a financial institution.

This decision is a very important one as, in most cases, you are choosing a bank for life (or at least for the period of owning the house you buy). I’m currently a client with one of the big financial institutions in Belgium, since 10 years, when we bought our house. The reason why we went to that bank was mainly based on the relationship we had with the local manager of the branch. We were happy to be a client of her and she did her very best to give us the best conditions and great service. We knew her personally and she used that power to convince us.

So far so good … time goes by and in the 10 years that passed by, the manager of the local branch has changed at least 5 times. (as far as I am aware of or remember, it could be even more). As such this not a real problem for me, but the personal bonding with the bank is gone. I have no personal feeling with the bank anymore. They only saw me once, when I started my own company, but nothing special. They also never invested in personal bonding. Whenever I needed to be there, all was formal and over as quickly as possible.

And now, 10 years later, I’m in need of my bank again.

My latest experience when stopping by to discuss my plans was … not good. I had the feeling that the person I was talking to did not know enough about my options. Moreover, they gave me the impression that I should be happy to be able to get a loan and that I could be there client.

I was really unhappy as I have been loyal all these years without being a difficult client. So I posted a tweet about this experience. Funny thing was that the headquarters spotted the tweet and had faxed it (literally) to the local branch manager, who mentioned it at my next visit. That visit was, again, a bad experience. First of all they never acknowledged my feeling of unhappiness or asked what the problem exactly was. They only tried to give me the feeling that I was wrong … too bad. I’m the client!

So what happened, I immediately called a second bank to ask them for an offer. The lady was very eager and invited me for a face to face meeting. She seemed very keen on winning this one and promised me to get back with a good offer. So far, 3 weeks later… Nothing! I contacted her by email to ask when I could get an offer and a week later I got the answer. ‘Hang on for a week please’ There goes my first impression of eagerness.

For the record, after 4 weeks, I did not get an offer of both.

That same week I was traveling internationally with a colleague who is also in the life stage of building a house and she has helped me a lot with different decisions to take.

During our flight to Copenhagen (to a financial institution) we discussed my problem with the banks. She was, of course, surprised by the story. But most of all, she was surprised because her experience was totally different. She found a local office, of a small bank brand, with a very eager manager.

The difference between my big bank and her smaller bank is that the latter one is self-employed. He knows what and who he is working for. And here is the learning! And … the challenge!

Most businesses work with employees, work with a team and the challenge will be to have everyone aligned in this philosophy of wowing customers, giving it your best shot! Not easy, but culture is really important and people make or break relationships.

Of course I’m going to give the bank of my friend a call and I’m sure they will be back with an offer sooner than the others. It is very likely that I will work with him. After my negative experiences with the others and the positive worth of mouth of my colleague, there is no doubt about that.

Note that the conversation that made me switch was offline. Remember that 90% of conversations about brands are offline. Don’t underestimate this!

A nice to know … the financial institution we visited in Denmark was looking for advice on how to optimize their worth of mouth approach and they already did some great things in observing and joining the online conversations. I wish my current bank did the same.

What would be my learning here?

  • If you spot a negative comment on social media, act immediately. Don’t wait for weeks, surprise me with your reaction and I might turn around my opinion.
  • If you are confronted with an unhappy client, try to find out why he is unhappy and learn from that. Say sorry and show empathy.
  • Try to build personal relationships.
  • Try to build a culture that is in line with your values. As management, walk the talk, and install a culture of openness so everyone can help others to grow towards this culture.
  • Make employees clear that they belong and contribute to a bigger cause. They are part of something bigger than their daily job.

My colleague Steven already wrote a post on customer service in financial services. It’s time to act!