I closed a few bank accounts yesterday that were left over from my solo days. The accounts were in the bank where my parents and I have banked since 1968. Then, it was the local “Farmers and Merchants Bank,” but in the last twenty years it has gone through four ownership changes, becoming first Eagle Bank, then Landmark Bank, then Magna Bank, and now Union Planters. The beautiful downtown building is nearly empty, with two tellers and a bank manager in the space that once housed almost fifty employees.
While I was closing my accounts, a woman in her mid-forties came in and asked the teller if she could cash a check for a hundred dollars. She said she was from out of town and visiting her mother-in-law, who was too ill to come to the bank herself. The teller told her that unless she had an account there, “bank policy” said she couldn’t cash the check. When the woman said her mother-in-law banked there, but was too ill to come herself, the teller apologized but told her she would have to go elsewhere. I observed the exchange while sitting with the bank’s manager, who watched the entire episode unfold but did nothing.
All afternoon, I tried to answer the question, “How many accounts will this bank lose over a single $100 check?” Certainly the mother-in-law’s account. If the ailing woman has any family in town, those accounts too will likely move elsewhere. Friends, family, and neighbors may move their accounts as well. I know I’m glad to have severed my relationship with the bank.
All for a hundred bucks. As for Union Planters, are its policies so inflexible that they can’t accommodate the visiting relative of an ailing customer? Are the managerial employees of this bank so afraid of breaking the “rules” that they are willing to jeopardize thousands of dollars in deposits? Do the employees get any customer service training at all?
How many little interactions like this do you have with your clients or customers? How many times has a “firm policy” kept you or your employees from doing what is right? I was almost sick when I saw how upset this woman was when she left the bank. I hope I don’t have clients leaving my office with the same feeling.