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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Customer service -- getting it right

An image from TD Canada Trust customer appreciation day. But read the linked blog entry's comment for another observation about why little things sometimes mean a lot.

This blog's core theme is that your best marketing is recognizing the importance of your current clients. I look for exceptional outbound marketing initiatives, of course, but focus most of my energies on the importance of getting it right with your current customers. For example, if you haven't already read the report, you should review our article on Reid and Deleye -- a successful smaller-market general contractor, growing year after year.

Then there is the bank. Banks are usually painful. But my, TD Canada Trust, understands customer service. I saw this first-hand yesterday with the work of two employees, a front desk receptionist (whose name I didn't get, but clearly deserves recognition) and Mark Menzies, a Financial Services representative at the Merivale Mall branch.

This is my third year as manager of Eric's minor house league hockey team. I need to collect money from the parents and pay for things like tournaments and parties. For the last two years, I simply used my personal bank account for team business. I briefly considered opening a team hockey account. A somewhat cold receptionist at another TD Canada Trust branch told me I would need to get special letters and authorization forms before they would even consider the account.

This year, I decided that even if I needed to go through some hell, I would open a separate bank account. But maybe I was lucky (the branch was quiet) or maybe someone had been reading the customer service books, but the receptionist referred me right away to Mark, and we got down to business.

He said I might need a form or letter from the hockey association convener, but we could still open the account. Even for a small thing like a minor hockey group, account opening is not that simple -- there are lots of legal forms, but Mark kept it light, discussing hockey as he printed and had me sign the documents.

At the end, after saying he would issue free cheques from the cheque service because they didn't have the starter cheque kit in the branch, he said "there is a freeze on this account" until it is reviewed by a compliance officer -- and I might indeed need to get some additional paperwork. But this should not be a problem, he said, and if that is the case, we would be all ready to go as soon as I had the letter. But if that letter is not necessary, the bank could open unfreeze the account within a day or two. I felt relieved. A theoretically painful ordeal had been made, well, almost pleasant.

On Mark's desk were cards with words -- I wish I kept one with me -- that said something to the effect "We would be pleased if you referred a friend". No other message, no words, no phone numbers, just the simple message.

Hmm, have managers at TD Canada Trust been reading Fred Reichheld's "The Ultimate Question" book? Maybe. But the interesting thing here is tat unlike my experience at Enterprise Rent a Car in Toronto, the process did not appear forced, artificial, or with not-so-hidden sales or revenue-generating agendas.

Then, I remembered my first experience at the former Canada Trust before it successfully merged with the Toronto Dominion Bank. As a surge of customers entered the branch, the line started growing -- then I noticed (for a bank) a strange thing happened. Everyone behind the counter, no matter what they had been doing previously, stepped up and opened all the tellers' windows. Common sense procedure, perhaps, but good business nonetheless.

Is there even more behind the scenes here? Look at this site for Serviceplus Rewards. Presumably not designed for the general public, and not wearing the TD Canada Trust identity, appears to be part of a trade-centric referral incentive program.

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