It’s Still True… Community Banks Succeed by Building Strong Customer Relationships

For community banks to maintain and grow market share they must stand out as different from their competitors. One of the strongest ways community banks can outshine regional and national banks, as well as credit unions, is to Exceed Customer Expectations.

To offer outstanding service we must first get into our customers’ world and anticipate their needs. We can only get into someone’s world if they trust us. Trust comes with building quality relationships. Therefore, as community bankers, we must begin building quality relationships with all of our customers to anticipate and satisfy their financial needs, and thereby “exceed their expectations.”

Building quality relationships takes time. Therefore, from the moment a customer enters our Bank, we begin the process of getting to know them. Interestingly enough, customers appreciate the interaction we share with them. They like for us to get to know them better. They look forward to seeing us. We sometimes forget they truly want a relationship with their community bank.

The best way to begin getting to know a customer is when they open their first account with us. At that time, we collect as much information about the customer as they feel comfortable giving us. Then, each time the customer interacts with us at the bank, it is our responsibility to continue building the relationship and collecting more information about the customer – again, so we can anticipate and satisfy their financial needs, and thereby “exceed their expectations.”

Questions like, “How’s the new job going?” or “Are you ready for your son’s graduation?” are something a customer may not expect from a typical banker. But, community bankers care and questions like these show sincerity without being too intrusive. In fact, customers are impressed when their banker knows about or remembered their new job or upcoming graduation of their son. And what better way to exceed expectations than to let them know how important they are to you.

Because building relationships is a two-way process, our customers will want to know more about us, too — not just our Bank, but us as bankers. When we begin building a relationship with our customers – we want to make it conversational. We want to orient them to our Bank and build friendly relationships with individual staff members, so they can begin trusting us. We can begin explaining to our customer why our Bank is different – and why we are more responsive to their financial needs. We gradually seek their permission to ask them more questions and get a feeling of their level of comfort as we share stories of our family and interesting or funny things we have recently experienced. The more the customer feels the relationship is two-way, the more they will trust us and the relationship can grow even more.

As a result, our job is to collect information about our customers all the time. Perhaps the information we collect is new and in other instances, it is updated. It is always changing as peoples lifestyles are always changing. Making this information available to staff is just as important as collecting it. Using core systems to make customer notes about their life events and previous conversations will make it easier for the next staff member to continue that relationship without missing a beat. The practice of getting into our customers’ world allows us to understand where they are at a given time and help them with their financial needs and goals.

The key to building relationships and getting in someone else’s world – is it has to come from our hearts. We have to truly believe we are helping our customers. We have to believe that if we do not get into their worlds and help them with their financial needs we are under serving them. It’s still true…we have to exceed our customers’ expectations to make a difference in their world and ours as community bankers.