By Colleen Cormier, Account Executive for On the Mark Strategies

My son turned 14 recently. To help him celebrate, we took him and a group of his friends to an escape room, then head to a pizza buffet. Is there anything better than unlimited pizza for teenage boys? Unfortunately, that plan came to a screeching halt when we entered the restaurant.

About five feet into the establishment, we were “greeted” by a man behind a counter in a logo T-shirt who said, “We close in 20 minutes.” The buffet still had pizza on it, so I asked him if they would be adding to it before closing. He said, “we might consider a special request.”

We turned around and left, which is what your customers or members (or potential ones) would do if someone at your financial institution greeted them with such blatant rudeness. It was their loss and your gain, because here’s what you can learn from Pizza Inn’s poor service.

You only get one chance to make a first impression. I know it’s cliché, but it’s true. We easily had five other restaurant choices without having to get back in the truck. How many other choices do consumers have if they walk out of your financial institution unhappy? If there’s at least one other bank or credit union in sight, you can pretty much guarantee they won’t be back.

Always deliver on your brand promise. I walked in carrying a huge birthday cake. It should have been obvious to anyone with functioning eyesight that this was more than a group of people visiting a buffet. We were there to celebrate a special occasion, and Pizza Inn took that away from us. I was curious to see how that behavior compared with their brand promise, so I did some research. The Pizza Inn website reads, “It’s been a privilege serving loyal guests for more than three generations. Come and start your own family tradition with us today!” I don’t think this is the treatment Pizza Inn had in mind when it created its brand plan.

Consistency is key to a successful brand. We arrived at 8:30 p.m. According to the restaurant’s website, it is supposed to be open until 11 p.m. on Friday evenings. When we walked past the building at 9:30 p.m. to get back to our car, the place was dark. The information on your website must match the information in your branches and on your signage. If you can’t communicate your hours of operation consistently, potential consumers are unlikely to trust you with their money or anything else. It seems small in the grand scheme of things, but everything matters in branding. You must be consistent, even with the smallest details.

As much as I like Pizza Inn’s food, this experience left a bad taste in my mouth. I won’t return to that location, and my brand loyalty is questionable at this point. Perhaps Pizza Inn can afford to lose customers. I’m guessing your financial institution cannot.