“Customers want to be treated with respect. The day you stop talking to them like regular people is the day you lose touch and relevance. After that, you start losing customers,” – Huffington Post, April 12, 2015.
Not very long ago, Southwest Community Hospital in Atlanta shut down. In 2009, a report on Atlanta’s WSB-TV News website said Southwest has filed for bankruptcy protection twice. At the time of its first filing, in 2004, the 125-bed hospital’s financial problems had stemmed largely from low reimbursements for care. Most patients were uninsured, under insured or in government programs, Medicaid and Medicare. In 2009, the hospital shut down a second time – it had no patients to treat.
What the report did not say was that the hospital had a problem with customer service. Patients’ x-rays and lab reports were not sent back to doctors, and in one situation, when the hospital was called, the telephone operator put the phone down and talked to another employee who was in the same room with her. After the idle conversation concluded, the caller asked to speak with the supervisor. When the supervisor came on the line, her response about the incompetent operator was, “Well, I can’t help everybody.” The caller then placed a call to one of the board members whose response was “I don’t go to that hospital myself.”
With other incidents happening there, people stopped patronizing Southwest and started going to other hospitals for services, and Southwest eventually shut down.
More recently, a patron of a Family Dollar Store waited patiently while the cashier did inventory over the phone. The cashier did not acknowledge the only customer in the store at the time and kept doing inventory. Finally, the shopper interrupted and asked about tax on the dollar item she was getting and offered to put the money on the counter so she could leave. The cashier finally hung up the phone and scolded the customer saying, “You need to learn how to be patient.” That incident was reported, and the cashier was fired.
Whether it is a hospital, retail store or a bank, good customer service is vital for success.
In Minneapolis, there is a person who knows how to serve his customers. He does business the old-fashion way. Before recommending anything, he takes time to get to know who his customers are. He treats them with respect, and he calls them all by their names. His customers love it, and respond in kind.
Sylvester Banks is that person. He is the branch manager at U.S. Bank – the Normandale Community College on-site branch in Bloomington. He has that “it” factor, which means he knows how to connect to a person’s personae and can satisfy the demands of any situation. This equals to excellent customer service for U.S. Bank, which commensurate into a succession of promotions.
In 2010, Banks started working at U.S. Bank after moving to Minneapolis from Atlanta. He was so ahead of the game that he got the attention of his district manager who quickly elevated him up the corporate ladder. His first position was a universal banker doing teller transactions, loans and consulting customers on their finances and offering them products to better position them financially. He then transferred to the U.S. Bank Eagan office under the same title, and then was promoted to the Burnsville North branch as assistant manager and in 2014 was awarded the title of manager at the Normandale Community College On-site branch.
As a new branch manager, Banks’ clientele changed. He now works with the students, faculty, and staff of Normandale Community College. His, focus is now on educating customers on checking and saving accounts while building value. Partnering with Normandale College campus advocates, he often delivers presentations to the college students and staff. One particular program U.S. Bank offers is the S.T.A.R.T program, which Banks uses to encourage the students to save under that plan.
“The customer base has changed (since moving to the new branch), but thankfully the products and services are still the same,” said Banks. “It is very rewarding knowing that I have the ability to shape and cultivate U.S. Bank customers for generations to come.”
Banks was the top performer in the region and recently received the Annual Star of Excellence award.
“I like to interact with my customers,” said Banks. “I treat them like I want to be treated, and I give of myself. One good thing that helps me is listening to the customer. Our conversation is not just about money, it’s not just about financial solutions, I actually get a chance to dive into personal lives – that part they would never share with other people they just met. But somehow they open up to me, which gives me the ability to gain their trust. Building immediate rapport with individuals is my individual gift, and I am grateful for it.”
Listening before recommending has been the manager’s foundation to winning over customers.
“I genuinely take pride in educating my customers on finances because money doesn’t come with financial literacy instructions,” said Banks, who has a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix in Atlanta, and a bachelor’s degree from McKendee College.
“What a cool guy. I wish he worked on my team. You can tell that (he) loves what he is doing,” said Amy Frantti, assistant vice president of corporate public relations at U.S. Bank.
Norma Chappell is former senior editor of Upscale Magazine, Change Magazine, Twin Cities Executive Magazine and is a business owner and public speaker.