To say I’ve been having issues with my regular bank since I moved to the west coast would be a grotesque understatement. I’ve had issues with my debit card, my credit card, and they also managed to screw up a bank check I had printed from them. These series of incidents have required repeated calls to customer service, and each time I’ve called, I’ve been told “I’m sorry” by each representative I’ve dealt with, which doesn’t make me feel any better. Why? Because it’s never followed up by actually addressing the underlying issue. My son used to watch a show called “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood”, which I always enjoyed because it included a nice lesson for the kids just like the show it sprouted from, Mister Rogers Neighborhood. In one of the episodes, Daniel learns that simply saying I’m sorry isn’t enough. Instead, he learns it’s important to do what you can to help fix the problem/issue. So he always says “I’m sorry. How can I help?” and then follows through on the ask by actually doing what he can to help rectify the situation.
Today, once again, an issue with my current bank arose, and this was after they claimed twice before it had been fixed. I get on the phone with customer service – I speak with three people, who all again apologize, but then simply shuffle me off the phone to another person. At one point, the original person who made the error is brought on the phone. She explains they’re confused why this is still an issue, then offers to call me back Monday (!). In lieu of that, maybe they could speak to the other party who is affected by this screw-up on their part (like he cares at this point whose fault is). I explained again how this was not something that could wait, I was told the manager could fix this, etc. She says she’ll look at getting it fixed today and give me a call back. You can guess whether or not this actually happened.
I spend the next hour or so writing a letter to complain and send, which is cathartic, but hardly moves things along. Not wanting to have this other guy affected by this nonsense any longer, I head to a local branch of his bank, Wells Fargo, to make a deposit in his account directly. Wells Fargo was my mortgage company these last few years. I can’t say I liked or disliked them – they were just a place I mailed checks to once or twice a month. And since I didn’t have a checking or savings account there, I wasn’t sure I could just deposit money into someone else’s account. But I needed some exercise, so I decided to walk there with my family and hope for the best. It was a bit of a hike, so I was pretty sweaty and disheveled by the time I arrived.
“Hi there – how can I help you?” the teller asked.
“Can I make a deposit in someone’s account if I don’t have an account here?” I asked.
“Sure.” She then explains what information I need to have, what of type of payments they take, etc.
“Alright, I’ll go get cash.”
I walk outside to get cash from the ATM – naturally, another issue with the card from my bank prevented me from getting out the full amount. I trudge back inside, resigned to having to do this again the next day.
“All set?” she asks.
“Not really,” I sigh as I start counting out some bills. “But it’s fine. It’s not your fault.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. What can I do to help?”
I was so surprised by her question I stopped counting and looked up at her. I mean, I just told her it wasn’t her fault. Why is she offering to help?
“No, it’s just – I’ve had some issues with my bank trying to get this guy his money.” And I proceed to give the 30 second explanation of the whole sordid tale and how I’ll need to do this again the next day.
“Wow,” she said. “You have every right to be frustrated. I’m really sorry about that. Here, why don’t I see if I can’t make sure you don’t have to come back tomorrow?”
“Well, there’s a couple ways we could take care of it.”
And she proceeds to explain my options, make sure the account number and name match what I have, process the transaction and explain what she’s doing each at step, provide me final receipts, etc. It was clear that if there was some way, no matter how small, she could meet my needs and make my day a bit better after spending time at her branch, she was going to do it.
“Thanks so much for coming in today, Mr. Finlan. Is there anything else I can do to help you before you go?”
“No, this was great. Thanks so much”
“My pleasure, Mr. Finlan. Again, I’m so sorry about the day you’ve had. If you ever need anything else, please let us know.”
I left and went across the parking lot to find my wife and kids, who had made the trip with me and were eating some lunch.
“How’d it go?” she asked.
I told her about my experience.
“I think we should sign up for an account there,” she said.
“Yes, we should.”
This woman had no reason to go the extra mile, or dig into the problem a bit more, especially considering I wasn’t an account holder. And she didn’t fix the underlying problem – she couldn’t. But she did make it clear, and proved through her words and actions, that she would do whatever she could to make the experience that she could control as smooth and pleasant as possible. That’s all you can ever ask a person in a customer-facing position to do, really. She unknowingly earned my banking business for her company. Or maybe she figured she’d only go the extra mile for the guy who wandered in looking like Hobo Joe.
Sometimes it’s important to be reminded about how every interaction can potentially have an impact on your business, no matter how inconsequential it may seem at the time.
With that, I’ll put my soapbox away and return to my regular scheduled blogpost early next week. Have a great weekend!