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Why Fanaticism is a Good Thing.

Become a fanatic about your technology

While community banks often rate highly in areas of friendliness and customer service, they often rate poorly on technology. (Cash Management is a big source of customer complaints.) It’s tempting to shrug it off and excuse the complaints because “small banks can’t compete with the big boys on this stuff.”

But that’s baloney. Small banks have access to technology that provides great customer experience. The problem is not the technology vendors. It’s the banks who aren’t willing to be fanatical about making technology serve the customer’s best interest. Smaller banks can be quicker and more practical with technology that benefits the customer than big banks can be.

Be fanatical in your non-tolerance of mediocrity.

The customer experience is not improved by mediocre employees. In fact, one or two bad apples can have a very bad effect on all the rest. So, pay attention to the quality of those people who deal with customers. And, by the way, the woman in loan ops who hates people is the wrong person to answer questions about pay offs. The customer experience doesn’t stop with the teller line. If you are fanatical about superior market performance, you are not going to tolerate “C” players, and you’ll have a wary eye on the “B” players.

Become fanatical about lobbying for yourself

In 2009 the consumerists, smelling the blood in the water, ganged up to push through the restrictions on “bounce proof” or auto-paid NSF fees on banks. There were endless media stories. The regulators, bruised over the drubbing they took because of poor oversight they exercised prior to the crash of 2007, climbed on the band wagon to kill a great source of bank revenue. But, in the heat of the fray, not one bank took the offensive to explain that 90% of the bounce proof customers actually liked the program and did not want to give it up. So, in the end, banks got mugged and consumers had to jump through needless hoops.

An unintended consequence of this was a significant tear in the fabric of trust your bank enjoyed with your customers. Some bankers got the silent treatment at church. Some got jeered by news media. The “excessive” NSF fees were joined to the Wall Street crash as an example of how “the banks have raped their customers”. Shareholders, who ought to know better, joined the critics.

So what’s the solution? No bank can assume that the trade association lobby is all that’s needed. There are times when the bank has to speak for itself. This would have been one of them. It was a time for an aggressive “hey, that’s not us” outreach program. Next time, let’s see if we can avoid the Stockholm syndrome. We need to get ready now.

Before we leave the subject of lobbying, let’s talk about the Small Business Lending Fund (SBLF). We’re hearing that 80% of the successful “fund-ees” were banks who made aggressive contact with their congressional delegation. Other banks wrongly assumed that an approval from their regulator was good enough.

The lesson is clear: your bank needs to be smart and act in its own self-interest. Gear up to make direct, coherent and persuasive contacts with Congress, the State and the Media.

Be on the lookout for the next post or view the whole series on our website:
Seven smart marketing steps you can take now.