Backing Up That Friendly Smile with Value
Bordewyk, David C., Independent Banker
Community banks like to tell everyone that they know their customers and provide quality customer service better than anyone else.
Community banks go on to say that their knowledge of customers and the friendly, hometown service they provide are their niches. It's their ticket to beating the competition. Are community banks correct in their assumptions?
Not necessarily, says banking consultant Jack R. Salvetti. In fact, small banks that think friendly, hometown service alone gives them the upper hand may be deluding themselves.
A banker's warm handshake and nice smile may define friendly customer service but they don't define valued service, Salvetti says. And it's quality and value that customers are hungry for today. Whether it's in the holiday gifts they buy from the discount store or in the checking account they open at the bank, customers want value.
"What differentiates the Wal-Marts from other discount stores is that they sell for less," Salvetti told a group of Pennsylvania community bankers recently. "In fact, Wal-Mart believes in it so much that they put the slogan on the front of their stores: 'We Sell for Less.'
"The question for community bankers is how do you differentiate yourselves from your competition," he said. "What will you put on your billboard?
"You need to provide financial value to your customers. Ask yourself: If your institution disappeared tomorrow, would there be anything missing in marketplace," Salvetti said.
Simply stated, it's not enough to rely only on warm, friendly service. It's the financial value in the product or service that you provide to your customers along with the warm, friendly service.
'CREATING FINANCIAL VALUE'
"Differentiating yourself in the marketplace is not just a matter of pricing. It's not giving away the store. It's about creating financial value," the consultant said.
For community banks to move beyond the traditional boundaries regarding marketing and customer service often requires a real commitment to technology and training, according to Salvetti, a principal with the Wexford, Pennsylvania, accounting firm S.R. Snodgrass.
Salvetti and another principal at S.R. Snodgrass, Thomas A. Donofrio, emphasized to the audience of Pennsylvania bankers that, when used properly, technology can do wonders for a bank's marketing efforts. …