Service equals sales. That is a simple but true formula: the better you serve consumers the more sales you typically have. Too many times we separate the two, when in fact they are often one and the same. We also overcomplicate what is involved when it comes to getting our front-line staff to focus on service and sales.
We give them (too) basic training. We coach them. We have them practice. We also need to give them tools to help them focus on what is important. So we crafted the “Seven Bs” reminder tool you can use with your front-line employees. If you can get your staff to “be” these seven traits, your sales numbers will increase. So use this tool: share it with your front line folks, talk about it at your next staff meeting, customize it, coach to it, print it, review it, etc. Just use it.
Here are seven “Bs” your staff can do when it comes to providing better service and sales:
(1) Be knowledgeable. You can’t sell what you don’t know. You must know your products and services. And not just a little: a lot. Honest gut-check time: how well do you know your products and services? No matter what position you hold, there are probably a few products you could know better. Make sure you spend time on a regular basis reviewing the features and benefits of all your credit union or bank offers.
(2) Be real. The best service and salespeople today are not smarmy. Rather they are real and authentic. Be yourself, not someone else. Think about the last time you received excellent sales or service. More than likely the salesperson was authentic.
(3) Be a user. While the first “be” is critical (knowing your products), that is just a start. You have to use them as well. How you can you effectively encourage consumers to use your bill pay product when you don’t use it yourself? You can’t. If there is a reason you are not using your own financial institution’s products and services then there are deeper issues you must explore. It’s much easier to talk to prospects about how you use the products and how they benefit you personally.
(4) Be positive. You have to give your best every day. Not your average—your best. Whether you have a fight with the spouse on the way to work, your kid spits up on your nice shoes or your dog gets sick as you’re leaving, once you walk into the doors of your employer you must set all that to the side. Yes, we face challenges all the time but when dealing with service and sales we must remember that there is no such thing as a bad day.
(5) Be an expert. It’s not enough to know your products and use your products. You must also be an expert in your products. No one should know more about financial matters than you. People buy from experts. You are not a loan officer, teller, new accounts representative, or service advisor. You are an expert.
(6) Be specific. Details are critical with service and sales. Specificity doesn’t come with a general knowledge about your members, customers or products. The more you know about the person you are dealing with (their current situation, their family, their finances, etc.) the more you can match a particular product or service to their needs. You can’t treat everyone the same or offer everyone the same product or service. You must be specific with each individual.
(7) Be questionable. Ask a lot of questions. And then listen attentively to their answers. The only way you can effectively do the sixth “be” above is to ask questions. You must also ask be open-ended questions. For example, rather than asking, “do you want to open a checking account today,” ask “what are you looking for in a checking account.”
Improving service and sales does not happen by accident. It takes initiative. It takes the seven “Bs.”
Let’s face it: the business world is full of annoying clichés, trite phrases and overused “hip” terminology. Credit unions and banks are no different.
It’s time to examine our own speech and refresh it. Aren’t there things you’ve heard so many times at your shop that if you hear it again, you’ll smack your head against the wall? Consider the following four things we say too often in credit unions and banks.
1) What’s the ROI of … ? Before all the number-crunchers freak out, I do believe ROI is important, especially when tracking marketing results. However, marketers readily know that actually tracking the ROI of many efforts, such as mass advertising and branding, is extremely difficult. While we must keep an eye on ROI, it should not crack a whip over our heads. The next time your CEO asks you for the ROI of branding, for example, ask him or her what’s the ROI of their mother. You’ll get odd stares and will initiate (hopefully) some great conversation. Use this example at your own risk!
2) We need a sales and service culture around here. Welcome to the 21st century! Of course you need a sales and service culture. Every bank and credit union does. It’s a must-do. We must get out of the habit of thinking of themselves as order-takers and embrace the reality of what we do: providing a retail service to customers. Yes, I said retail. Just like Apple, Amazon or Neiman Marcus. Banks and credit unions that learn to shift to this role will prosper while those that don’t will wither. Stop talking about a sales and service culture and implement a retail experience culture.
3) How satisfied are our consumers? What a lame question, yet we hear it all the time. If all you care about is satisfied customers, you should lock the vault, turn off the lights and close up shop now. A satisfied customer means very little. A wowed customer, a blown-away with your service customer, a captured-by-the –heart-forever customer, that’s where it’s at! If all your customers are is merely satisfied, they have no real reason to stay an active with your financial institution. The competition will quickly lure them away. Your bank or credit union must move beyond the search for “satisfied” customers and learn to cultivate “I just got my socks knocked off at the bank or credit union” customer. Satisfaction is worthless; loyalty is priceless.
4) We need to do a promotion for … Credit unions and banks must also move away from the typical and stale promotion calendar mentality of pushing certain things at certain times of the year, like used car loans every fall. To succeed in the new consumer culture, you must push and promote your brand, not your products. Your brand, as the spirit and voice of your bank or credit union, will (again, hopefully) bring new customers in the door. Once they’re inside, wow them with your products. Make overall brand and not specific products the focus of your marketing and communications efforts.
There you have it: four things we say too often in banks and credit unions, the overused clichés that should send all seasoned executives running.
As credit union and banking executives, we tend to live our lives in bubbles. We talk our own language (debt ratios, risk based lending, return on investment, margins, spreads, etc.). The reality is consumers don’t think this way. Nor do they care. As leaders we must get out of our bubbles and look at our financial institutions from consumers and employees’ viewpoints.
Here are some bubbles we need to break:
(1) Get out of the executive bubble.
When was the last time you talked to a member or customer? Not in a political, glad-handing way but truly engaged them in a conversation (asking them what they like and don’t like about you)? We tend to sit in our ivory towers and think we know what consumers want. A great way to get out of the executive bubble is to spend some time on the front line. Maybe serve as a teller for a day. Perhaps answer the phones in a call center (that will probably give you more information than you care to have!). You can’t market to consumers unless you know them. And you can’t know them if you are in your own world.
(2) Get out of the marketing bubble.
Have you ever looked at your marketing from a critical eye? We all need accountability, including marketing. The reality is the marketing department is probably juggling so many projects they may not be spending time to analyzing their efforts or their pieces. A great way to get out of the marketing bubble is to conduct a marketing audit.
(3) Get out of your management bubble.
Managing people is hard; many times we’d rather complete a project than converse with one of our employees. As leaders, we have projects to complete. Yet sometimes in our project rush we lose sight of our own people. One of the best ways to break the management bubble is talk with your folks without an agenda. That’s right—manage without a list of tasks you want them to complete. One idea is to give every one of your employees 30 minutes of your time each week where they set the agenda. They can talk to you about anything they want (their career, their job, the financial numbers, something personal, etc.). We often talk about empowering employees; one way to do that is to let them control the agenda.
(4) Get out of the policy bubble.
It seems like as financial institutions we have a policy for everything: lending, H.R., audit, social media, etc. You name it and there is probably something in writing for it. Rather than look for ways NOT to do something (for example, make a loan) maybe we should look for ways to make it work. While policies are important, there should always be exceptions. We can become extremely rigid as financial institutions. The best policy you might have is pretty simple: our policy is to help people.
Bubbles protect us. Bubbles insulate us. Bubbles blind us. And ultimately, bubbles prevent us from growing.
As part of the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Conference last month, I facilitated an “Ask the BD Experts” panel discussion. In this unique format attendees could ask any questions (strategic or tactical). The panel discussion offered tips, ideas and suggestions from three seasoned business development experts.
(1) Train your ambassadors—American Airlines FCU has an incredibly robust ambassador program (as do many other credit unions). One of the tips Reed offered that makes his program unique is that he actually trains his ambassadors. He gives them tons of information about American Airlines FCU and what makes them unique. In essence, he has turned his ambassadors into an unpaid sales team.
(2) Hire sales people—McDonald constantly preaches this message: “if you are in business development, you are in sales.” He counsels credit unions to stop being shy about sales. Hiring sales people also means paying them well, paying them a commission and holding them accountable for sales goals.
(3) Show value—Perez noted that when it is all said and done consumers and SEGs want value. You have to prove that your credit union brings value to the business you are serving. In other words, it is far more about them than you. Value could mean educating employees, helping them with their finances, sponsoring company events, etc. Value is not bringing donuts to the company once a month.
(4) Drop member incentives to join—Coinciding with the above point, every expert suggested no longer paying cash incentives at company events to get people to sign up to join your credit union. The bottom line is those accounts are extremely transitory and rarely profitable. Someone should join your credit union because of the overall value they are receiving and not the $50.
(5) Use top down to bottom up strategy—You need to work everyone at the select employee group: from the CEO to the janitor. Don’t forget the importance of getting top executives from the company to be your advocate. Sometimes a CEO can open a door when an H.R. executive can’t.
(6) Rank your SEGs—Not every SEG is created equally. Make sure you spend your time with your most profitable companies. It is the classic 80/20 principle: 80% of your production will come from 20% of your companies. And the key is spending your time with those top 20% and not trying to get the others to move.
(7) Use SEG testimonials—A common problem faced by many business development representatives is losing the company contact when the H.R. person leaves the company. If you can gather testimonials from employees inside the SEG who use and love your credit union that opens up doors that might be otherwise be closed. It also makes it easier to reestablish a dormant relationship.
(8) Talk to CEOs about the numbers—What’s the ROI of business development? Do you ever get that question (the panel sure did)? The best way to prove your business development worth is to show your results with numbers (loans, new members, balance sheet impact, etc.). This requires serious tracking and data integrity but some of the tips offered included making sure front line staff understand the importance of coding members correctly.
Those were the top suggestions from the experts (including a few that came from audience participants). What other ideas would you add to the list?
Although there will probably be very little real competition Bieber brings when it comes to reaching teens and their money, there are a few things we can gain from his entry into the financial services sector. Here are some lessons financial institutions can learn from Bieber's pre-paid debit card:
(1) Offer a better pre-paid debit card or consumer friendly checking. Ron Shevlin has been warning us for the past year about the “de-banked” and pre-paid debit cards. If you haven’t read his post “The Debanked: The $1.7 Billion Threat to Banks,” it’s a must-read. Whether you like it or not (and think the Bieber card is stupid, which it is), there is a market (and a growing younger demographic market) that are opting for pre-paid debit cards. Financial institutions can respond with their own pre-paid card as a product or offer a more consumer friendly checking account. Not doing so ignores one of the trends in banking today. The biggest issue to improve either product: fees. Whether you offer a checking or pre-paid debit card make sure you are addressing consumers concerns about fees. The reality of the Bieber card is that it is a horrible deal for consumers. Beat the horribleness of Bieber.
2) Use video tools to reach teens. How did Bieber launch the card? With social media but also primarily through YouTube. You can check out the video below.
Whether you hate Bieber or have a case of Bieber Fever, you have to give him credit: he knows how to reach the teen market. And video is the way to go. The number one search engine for people 30 is not Google, Bing or Yahoo. It’s YouTube. So how are you using this channel at your credit union or bank? As we noted in the post “Video Has Their Attention—Does it Have Yours?” financial institutions must start using video as a central component of their marketing efforts (and not just an after thought). These tactics could include a video annual report, a more robust digital strategy, a customized YouTube channel, short financial education clips and video member testimonials.
(3) Educate teens (and the many anti-Bieber people). Most consumer advocates are jumping on the Bieber pre-paid debit card as a bad deal. Even the president of SpendSmart Payments (the company behind the card) said, "If you want to teach teens responsible spending then there are better, less expensive ways of doing so. Teaching teens that it's OK to pay a fee to use your own money is the exact opposite of what you should be teaching them." What? The CEO just admitted the pre-paid debit card is a bad deal for teens? Then why are you offering it? And note that the company’s web address is “billmyparents.com.” Now is the right time to educate teens (and their parents) just how important being smart about your money is. Demonstrate in tangible ways how much money you are saving them with lower fees. Use the news coverage about the Bieber card to your advantage. Contact local reporters and share your concerns regarding what a bad deal the Bieber card is. Write an editorial piece in the local newspaper. Craft your own ant-Bieber video. Remember, however, that the best way to reach Gen. Y is still through mom and dad.
(4) Nothing. The reality is the Bieber pre-paid debit card is going to flop. After all, this is Justin Bieber we’re talking about.
Now that this post is done, I’m off to listen to Baby on my iPod.