Steal This Idea: The Ultimate In-Branch Conversation Starter

Plenty of financial institutions describe their service as “warm, friendly and personal.” But basic courtesies like a smile, a hello and a thank-you barely get you to first base. There has to be more to building relationships than waiting for tellers to remember the names of those customers who come in to conduct a high volume of costly transactions. Isn’t there?

Well here is an excellent way to spark conversations in your branches that is both simple and effective: In the workspace next to every teller and service representative, place a medium-sized placard with a mini-biography of that employee’s life, interests and hobbies.

Each employee only needs to pick five profile questions that they would be comfortable revealing, choosing from a list of maybe 10-20 options. Some suggestions include:

  • Favorite movie
  • Best vacation ever
  • Last book I read
  • Kids
  • Pet/Dog
  • What I do for fun
  • Favorite station
  • Food I can’t live without
  • Favorite TV show
  • Celebrity I’d most like to meet
  • Where I went to school
  • Years in the area
  • Nickname
  • Favorite band

You can think of additional profile questions to use if you’d like. HR can screen employees’ answers to make sure no inappropriate material gets shared.

Any bank or credit union struggling with on-boarding or cross-selling should give this a try. It’s fairly intuitive to see how slice-of-life biographical profiles of your employees would trigger lively, engaging customer conversations. Anything can happen when customers get comfortable with employees after finding some common ground. But don’t just dump a bunch of placards on everyone’s desks and expect magic things to happen. You have to train staff on how to maximize these conversations and turn them into opportunities. Otherwise, you’ll do nothing more than increase your average time-per-transaction.

If you expand the program to include every employee from the CEO on down, you’ll likely witness the team-building benefits that come when co-workers forge deeper interpersonal relationships.

This simple-yet-effective relationship-building tool would work for just about any size financial institution, but it is perfectly suited for smaller, community-focused banks and credit unions — especially those who aspire to be viewed as neighbors or friends, which is a smart strategy because people have such low opinions of bankers these days. It’s a good idea to distance yourself from the greedy, stingy, no-good image bankers have today by “humanizing” your staff (and, by extension, your brand’s image).

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