I once asked in my facebook account -- “What's the worst problem you experienced with your bank and what did you and your bank do about it?” This is what I got:
 
•      Businessman Ricky Estrada claimed that his bank did not give him feedback after he went to the bank to personally inspect a counterfeit check he was asked to confirm by the bank.
•      LBC’s COO Janet Tayag-Ong found it “illogical, not customer friendly and worst, no customer service at all” when her bank limited debit card transactions in selected branches even if they have so many branches nationwide”.  She also found it puzzling that the bank manager refused to call the bank branch she does banking with to verify information about herself.
•      Former US Navy Jerry Caritan’s wife got mugged right inside a bank in the US. “The security folks did not notice anything unusual in the bank and the cameras in the bank were not working. The bank asked her relative to file a police report. That was it!”
 
            The above are just some examples of “disconnect” between what customers expect and what banks do. What is service? Why must some service companies like banks have to be extra vigilant about service?
 
            Service, in practical terms, is simply about inconveniencing one’s self for the convenience of others.  Hence, in banks, where commoditization is the norm, service can be a major differentiator and motivating reason to do business, provided basic expectations are met first.  Depositors “hire” the services of a bank, with minimum expectations, such as to keep their money safe, to earn reasonable interest, to have ease when making deposits or withdrawals, and to treat them with respect and dignity, such as to be called in case of the need for verification or at the very least be resourceful and concerned enough when client cannot be reached.
 
            In other words, banks were not hired to make it difficult for depositors to get their money, to be indifferent, just like the three cases cited above, nor to besmirch depositor’s reputation by penalizing them with a “dormant account” classification if no withdrawals have been made for a year while accepting deposits in a savings-current automatic transfer account during the same period. Fiduciary relationship is the special mandate of banks, and we often encounter violations of this trust as banks are more indifferent than reasonable.  Blue Ocean Strategy authors Kim Chan and Renee Mauborgne called bad practices “supply side thinking”, resulting from a lack of real understanding of customers needs, as well as respect for customer’s rights, manifested in terms of policies and practices that can be classified as “common nonsense”.
 
            As banks grow bigger, they sometimes forget their past, or how the people before them have grown the banks by nurturing trust and relationship with old clients.  Assets and resources become the new arena of competitive advantage, and perhaps this distracts banks from what ought to be the pursuit for customer satisfaction.  Awards and recognition for sales volume takes over as performance indicators, while hoping that PR and advocacies are enough to project a positive, feel-good feeling, “anyway we are helping society.” Perhaps it would be good to be reminded of a fundamental business truth, which Professor Theodore Levitt of Harvard said best 50 years ago: “People don’t go to the hardware store to buy a drill, they go to buy a hole”.  To paraphrase using the context of this article, “People go to banks not just to deposit or withdraw their cash.  They go to banks to feel secure, to have peace of mind.”  Imagine how a bank client would feel when this sense of security and more especially his peace of mind are violated because of indifference and so-called SOPs?  At the end of the day, what matters is not recognition but respect, from the bank and for the bank. Next time you visit your bank, observe how they treat different types of customers.  If you have a wishlist, how would you want your bank to treat you?
 


JOSIAH GO is the no. 1 marketing author of the Philippines with 11 best selling books. His latest book is “The WE Entrepreneur” (co-authored with Chiqui Escareal-Go) is the no. 1 book under entrepreneurship of National Bookstore. He is currently chairman of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc. (www.mansmith.net), and has been awarded one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) of the Philippines in 2001.  He is also the first and only awardee in business education of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons (TOYP) of the world, given in 2002.  Most recently, he was given the World Brand Leadership Award during the World Brand Congress in India. Please send your marketing, sales and strategy questions to mentors@mansmith.net.