Tuesday, May 15, 2007

"Every Customer Becomes a Friend"--More Than a Slogan

Officially, he is J. Reid Moore, CFO of Republic Bank of Georgia, launched just six months ago in Suwanee, Georgia, near Atlanta. After 27 years in banking--including international stints in Brazil, Buenos Aires, Dominican Republic, Brussels, and Belgium--his credentials are impeccable. Predictably, he dresses conservatively and speaks quietly. Yet once Reid Moore starts talking about his bank's commitment to customer service, his eyes light up and you can feel his energy building.

The bank's slogan: "Every customer becomes a friend, and returns with a friend." Sounds interesting. You wonder if it came from a PR firm.

"Not at all," Moore clarifies. We didn't even choose our mission statement until we had brought our ten employees on board--five days before our opening. We spent one full day deciding what we wanted to be and accomplish. There was total agreement that we wanted to meet the needs of customers, not 'just sell them the flavor of the week.'"

Hiring procedures, not surprisingly, were unorthodox. A candidate for any position faced interviews with every employee, from the CEO to the entry level data specialist. In two cases, not everyone felt the candidates would match the desired "chemistry and compatability." The bank didn't hire them.

When completed, Republic Bank's building will have a homespun look--"lots of soft wood and rock, like a lodge." You won't notice people lined up to see a teller. Instead, bank personnel will welcome customers to individual tables, where high tech equipment will, quite quickly, perform all the transactions a teller would enact.

Having worked extensively with small banks as a consultant, Reid Moore knows the impact one disgruntled employee has on the work force: "When you have ten employees and one comes in with a sour expression, that means ten percent of your work force has bad morale that day."

Being a family means being flexible enough to help your colleagues. You cannot say, "That's not my job." You cross boundaries, and help your fellow employees serve customers well.

Another key word with Reid Moore: communication. "All employees have a right to know what we are doing. There are no secrets." For a half-hour before every Friday's opening, the employees meet, tell what is happening with them, and express their needs. No one feels reluctant to say, "Hey, I need help with this." Moore said it well: "We complement each other, we're not just bookends."

Some employees are surprised at the empowerment they experience. "You approve that bill for cleaning," Moore told one staff person, "your signature will be as good as mine."

Shareholders, too, stay well informed, with a monthly E-mail memo to every shareholder--far different from the typically stilted, and often dull, bank quarterly statements.

Moore smiled widely when he added: "We want every employee to have fun. At our quarterly
celebration (we avoided the word 'meeting') everybody got involved in a paintball fight."

Republic Bank extends recognition to employees with exemplary performance. Examples:

"Best Deal of the Quarter Award" went to Valerie, who closed a new loan application within two hours, while the CEO enjoyed lunch.

The MVP award honored Nicole, who "went out of her way to help others in her area."

The Customer Service Award went to all employees, who stayed long after closing time to count by hand the cash and coin savings of a new customer--$3,000 in dollar bills and $900 in change.

So far, new customers have come mainly by referral. "Nobody knows where our temporary building is," Moore observed, "yet they hear about us from very happy customers."

Republic Bank uses simple, inexpensive amenities to demonstrate genuine friendliness. The customer who got a car loan gets a thank you note with a $10 car wash coupon. The bank orders a $10 pizza for the family with a home loan, delivered at noon on moving day. "These gestures of good will generate far more powerful publicity than thousands of dollars of advertising would spark," Moore said.

Using a marketing firm from nearby Athens, GA, Republic Bank solicits customer feedback through focus group meetings.

Summing up our conversation over a delightful lunch, Reid Moore capsuled his bank's central purpose: "The people part and the ability to be creative separate us from every other bank."

For more information, visit the bank's Web site: http://www.republicbankofgeorgia.com

To read my comments about how our attitudes impact customers, read this article:
To order my audio CD about how to give magnificent customer care:


Post a Comment

<< Home