My bank pays me to wait.

After reading several posts by Judith Ellis on the ubiquitous decline of service these days, I was reminded of my ongoing complaints with my own bank in the Boston area—against which I previously railed in a post at TomPeters.com.

I decided to reprise it below because it still fits two years later!

This bank epitomizes the lack of imagination and spirit that I see in many businesses—and most banks.

I plan to take my business soon to a newly merged bank—TD Bank and Commerce Bank—because of the fanatical customer focus and innovative service that New Jersey-based Commerce Bank has long been known for. (It's no coincidence that its former CEO, Dennis Diflorio, was once a rock & roll drummer from Philly who helped to instill a rock & roll energy in the enterprise for many years.)

My bank has a policy that if you spend more than five minutes in a teller line, they give you five dollars. Imagine my excitement when, on one of my rare visits to a local branch in Chestnut Hill, I happened to notice the policy (posted on the wall, in fine print) while I was, well, waiting in line.

When I finally reached a teller, seven minutes later, my eager request for the five bucks was greeted by confusion then disdain by the teller. (Perhaps no one had ever stooped so low as to actually ask for the five bucks before!)

I cheerfully told him that now that I knew of the policy—and of the long waits in the bank—I'd be dropping by regularly to pick up my five dollars. (He didn't think that was nearly as funny as I did.)

Of course I eventually made the complex calculus to determine that taking twenty minutes out of my work day to earn a probable five dollars might not make great business sense. (But, then again, there is something to be said for doing things just for entertainment value.)

It's ironic that the first "positive customer experience" I've had at this bank was at their expense. I'd switch banks, but the local competition appears to be depressingly similar.


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6 Comments

  1. Too funny, John! What a great laugh I had! There is no doubt that this bank did not expect anyone to collect on their posted policy. But how disingenuous is it to post such a thing and not expect anyone to collect!

    Bravo, John! I would have done exactly the same and waited patiently for my 5 bucks, some two minutes later. Heck, I would have insisted on my 5 bucks 1 minute later. It's incredulous that such a policy would be posted and ignored by the staff.

    It would have been like my friends and I during college ordering pizza from Dominos at the University of Michigan and praying that the delivery men would be late, especially when we had ordered several pizzas at a time. The policy was that the pizza was free if the driver was one minute late. We were lucky quite often.

    Good thing Dominos had the sense to pay off. There might have even been a mini riot if they hadn't, as we were counting on these free pizzas, albeit with money in hand. In hindsight, Tom Moynihan, being the ethical Roman Catholic person that he is, giving more than half of his billions to charity, would have done nothing less. Bravo, Mr. Moynihan.

  2. Yes, if you have a business that's going to pay customers or give them free stuff when your service falters, you have to feature that as part of your marketing AND you have to happily deliver on it so you have a delighted customer. My bank never promoted their offer (it was a notice on the wall that was easy to miss) and they forgot to tell their employees to offer it with a smile. So they flunked on both fronts. But as I've said before, banks are SUCH an easy target. Commerce Bank is THE only bank whose customer service I recommend - which I hope will continue as "TD Commerce Bank."

  3. A bank CEO who was a former rock drummer? Interesting resume. I wonder which is more likely - a bank hiring a former rock drummer as CEO or a band hiring a former bank CEO as drummer.

  4. Stephen, I'd bet my car there are dozens of the former. I wouldn't bet much on the latter.

  5. I'm sure Charlie Watts' 07 income eclipsed that of most bank CEOs, but on average I'd take the CEO pay. But giving up the drummer perks would be tough. (I STILL miss them.)

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