Monday March 18, 2013

A Banking Migraine & How to Not Give Your Clients One

photo of jerry seinfeld trying to rent a carphoto courtesy of www.popscreen.com

I spent my morning in a bank, setting up a new business checking account for a project I’m working on. We had the usual info- federal tax id number, state registration, and i.d. for both my partner and I.

Our goal- open a bank account under the LLC we just formed Friday, deposit money, and cut a check for a vendor that worked for us last week.

We’re designing a product, and preparing to patent and license it. Typically this means you spend money, spend more money, and then hopefully at the end you’ve either got a big check or an annual check coming for a period of time. A few deposits, and 4 or 5 withdrawals each month- very little account activity.

The “personal” banker helping us didn’t bother to ask about our business. She merely asked (prompted by the computer software), “What category is your business in?”. Well shoot, what do we call it? We could say product development, design. Of course none of those appear as choices in the software. So she just selects computer design and service. Whatever. (For all you bankers out there, I know there’s BSA and Patriot Act stuff et al buried behind these questions, but this gal didn’t bother to unpack any of that.)

Still, after all that back and forth to determine a category, no one asked, (Including the manager who came over at one point) “So tell me about your business. What are you doing/making?”

Next up she had a series of “behavioral” questions regarding our account. “How many deposits do you think you’ll make?” I told her probably 3 or so a month. She said, “ Oh, so 1-10?” “Yes”, I replied. Her next question, “How many checks do you think you’ll be writing on the account?” “Probably 2 or 3 a month”, I answered. “Oh, so 1-10? That’s the lowest choice.” “Yes, 1-10. In fact, I’m 100% certain that 1-10 is going to be our answer for any other questions regarding this new account. I’m positive.”

She then proceeded to ask me 4 or 5 more questions along the same lines, and waited while I repeated the same answer for each one. 1-10. Extremely frustrating.

I could go on and on about the rest of her mechanical approach, but I won’t. Instead, here’s my assessment of what she should have done:

The first thing she should have done was get really clear on what we were trying to accomplish, how much time we had set aside for it, and what kind of business we were starting. That should have come before any corporate software. Then, taking all of that information into account, she should have briefed us on the information she’d need to accomplish that and how long it’d take(I call this the “escape hatch”)

Let’s talk about the “escape hatch” idea first- if somehow my partner and I had it in our heads that this account setup should only take 25 minutes, and no one tells us otherwise, we are going to be unhappy when we exit out of there after 50 minutes. That is a problem.

If you’re selling any kind of product or service, it is really critical that you explain the process to the customer and give them a fair estimate of how long it’s going to take. For a long time, the conventional thought on this was to just tell the customer it will only take “a few minutes”.

The trouble is- that’s rarely true, yet that is exactly what the customer will remember after the experience. “You said it was only going to take a few minutes, and now it’s been 45!” Conventional wisdom of the olden days said that this was still better than letting them leave and them likely not returning.

What we’re discovering though, the trust that’s damaged by not honoring their time, is more damaging than losing the occasional client that doesn’t like the proposed time and rushes off to another bank. If I want to refi my mortgage, but I don’t have a ton of time to hassle with it, do you think I’m going to that bank?

So much better to tell the customer, “This is probably going to take another 30 minutes. Do you have time to finish now, or would you like to schedule a time to come back and finish later?”

Now back to the first part. She needed to have done some kind of discovery process with us. That’s where all the “what does your business do”, “what do you need to get done today” and “how much time do you have to do it in” questions fit in. This always has to come first. It could have been done on the phone prior, but it has to happen.

Immediately after that, is where you “Set the table”. This is where you restate the objectives you just learned during discovery (“We need to open up a business account, deposit some money, and print a check for a vendor”), explain what needs to be done for that, and how long it will take. Tell me what we’re having, and how I’m going to eat it.

Another golden question she could/should have asked (especially for a bank), “How’d you guys happen to choose us for this account?” But alas, much could have been done differently to enhance this experience.

No matter what industry you do business in move in- customer experience can always be improved.

Any other tips for selling or “setting up” a new client account? Have you ever had an awesome business banking experience? Would love to hear what that entailed…


Chris Nordyke is an integrated marketer and strategy consultant. He works with owners and senior business leaders to transform and grow service companies via a unique holistic approach that drives referral business and client retention. Click here to schedule a complimentary consult with Chris.


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