Impersonal banking

April 10, 2013 at 4:43 am | Posted in Business | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,
Mmm buzz click.

Mmmm. Buzz click …

Bank bashing is easy, unproductive and old hat. Therefore, let me say this: if I lent hundreds of thousands of dollars to a virtual stranger so he could buy a home, run a business and do up his kitchen, I’d certainly expect to hold the whip hand.

Though it concerns banking, this post is about promises.

Many years ago, I left one big bank to protest bad service. The new big bank was better. When I got my line of credit, I was told I had a Personal Banker.

To prove it, I was sent a card with the name and contact details of a live human being.

I was highly sceptical. But once I started dealing with Sally*, my faith was renewed.

Sally answered my calls, replied to my emails, explained things clearly and strove to make good things happen fast.

As I wrote in her Christmas card [!] ‘You have single-handedly restored my faith in banks.’

When Sally was promoted to a bigger branch, I had my accounts transferred to be near her. Through the trials of recession and renovation, she was there: calming, helping, advising.

Then she got headhunted by a smaller bank.

Devastated, I tracked her down to see if I could switch banks. Alas, she’d also changed division and role.

That night, the concrete path to Empire House inexplicably cracked^.

My bank assigned me to a new Personal Banker, who promptly broke several limbs playing football and never regained focus.

My next Personal Banker moved overseas before we could meet.

My next Personal Banker changed branches, but wasn’t worth following.

My next Personal Banker was literally impossible to contact. I had to appeal his poor performance via online banking.

His replacement (my next Personal Banker) spoke to me twice before handballing me to her assistant for ‘personal reasons’.

In one of these exchanges, she advised that my request for a lower interest rate had been turned down by ‘the bank’.

I managed to get her email address, as I wished to posit that for my purposes, she was ‘the bank’. She hasn’t replied.

Finally, I asked her underling if it’d help to transfer my accounts to head office, just in case it was ‘the bank’.

He said no.

How I wish my bank had never put the idea of ‘personal banking’ into my head.

Because of this promise, I now suffer the sting of betrayal.

Would that I could regain the mistrust which once cocooned me from constant disappointment.

Come to think of it,

I’m almost there.


* Not her real name.

^ Not really; the neighbour’s tree fell on it during pruning.

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Feedback to the future

February 6, 2013 at 5:30 am | Posted in Business | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

This way up.

I often say criticism is the surest, shortest path to excellence.

I always ask clients for feedback when delivering work, but I only realised on my weekend away that I seldom seek it afterwards via follow up.

I now see I’m doing my clients a disservice.

I may even be thwarting income and growth.

Here’s why.

As a childless couple, our pets are very important to us. So we spent a weekend in ‘doggie friendly’ accommodation.

The cottage was immaculate and thoroughly geared to make us all comfortable. Unfortunately, on the last night, one dog found a gap in the garden fence and headed for the hills.

Recapture was arduous and the dog’s subsequent confinement inside defeated the garden’s purpose.

The cottage had no feedback form, so I resolved to ring the owner to prevent future guest distress. But when I got home, work backlog drove this thought from my mind.

Had there been a feedback form, or had the owner called to see if we’d enjoyed our stay, the fence would already be fixed.

Last month I gained a valuable new client via this blog. Her first project was a brochure, done just in time for an industry expo.

Though I wished her well then, I only asked this morning if the brochure did what she’d expected.

I’m yet to hear. If it was a dud, she’s had four weeks to complain to others. If it was a success, I could’ve earned another testimonial and we could be working on a second, larger project.

Feedback is scary: it could be bad. We may have to refund money or fix something. But by avoiding the bad, we miss the good.

And let the bad get worse.

Consider my plumber. The first $700 of work he did was so good, I commissioned another $1300. Instead of doing it himself, however, he sent his barely formed underling.

Lacking the tools and training to bend metal, this calloused youth bludgeoned it instead.

His handiwork has since admitted rain, leaves and a possum that disturbs us nightly.

If my plumber rang for feedback, I’d surely vent and demand recompense. However, if he apologised, fixed the problem and promised to do subsequent work himself, I’d happily accept.

This is because (A) I have lots of plumbing work left and (B) I’ve since discovered that with tradespeople, the devil you know is better.

And if he did the same great work as initially, I’d pay cash on the spot and praise him here.

I also often say fortune favours the brave. So I’m bravely going to follow up clients to see if my ‘fighting words’ are doing just that.

I sense that in going back,

I may ensure my future.


Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Mission possible

February 4, 2013 at 5:22 am | Posted in Business | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Arrow in Target

You too can hit your
target audience.

I used to think mission, vision and values statements were corporate instruments that didn’t apply to small business owners like me.

Lately, however, I’ve been asked more often to summarise what I ‘do’.

Luckily, the 68-year-old man who services my car has set a brilliant benchmark.

This is the de facto mission statement I’ve used for years:

I provide premium writing, editing, education and recruitment copywriting services to enlightened clients who value effective communication and outstanding human resource performance.

It sounded good at the time, but now it seems a bit pompous. It describes the clients I want, but not the benefits I give. There’s too much ME! in it.

This is what I wrote for my Joomla Bamboo interview:

I optimise client communications by making them clear, concise and correct. This builds their brand, creates the best possible results and delivers the biggest bang for their marketing buck.

The words are shorter. It’s less demanding and more specific. It has a big WIIFM* factor, which most business advisors say is mandatory. But it’s still wordy – especially for a copywriter.

Printed on my last car servicing invoice is this gem:

Our aim: Fairness to all concerned using quality products to make your car safe and reliable at a reasonable price – quickly!

This ticks every box for me. It could almost serve as constitution for a new country!

So how did a wiry, aging motor mechanic best me at writing?

He wrote from the heart, about what he knew and loved best.

And that’s the power behind most great communications.

But wait, there’s more! At the bottom of the bill is the line:

Thanks for trusting us (Bert^)

And if that isn’t old school enough, Bert wrote a detailed explanation of all he did to my car with a fountain pen!

I always tell my clients that every communication either builds or erodes their brand.

An invoice is as much a communication as a job ad, newsletter or annual report.

In his little invoice, Bert gave the impression that he was an honest, thoughtful professional who took care over his work, appreciated my business and operated to principles of decency that are in short supply.

Though it’s back to the drawing board for me and my mission statement, I’m humbled by and grateful for Bert’s expert inspiration.


Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

* What’s In It For Me

^ Not his real name.

The Punter’s Ton

February 3, 2013 at 7:20 am | Posted in Business | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

A VERY successful sale.

The most enjoyable retail experience I ever had was buying firewood years ago. I’m still amazed at how the attendant transformed a bog-ordinary transaction into a fun adventure.

As browbeaten accountants will wearily confirm, no field is boring if it’s your passion. And passion for your business is a sure-fire path to success.

I drove up in my hatchback and ordered 100 kg of wood. Tim* asked if I wanted a pre-weighed stack or … the Punter’s Ton. Of course I inquired what the Punter’s Ton was.

Leaning towards me, eyes darting to the office, Tim told me in a lowered voice.

The yard tractor had a front bucket. After years of dealing firewood, Tim knew exactly what volume comprised 100 kg. While management insisted that he stack blocks on a set of scales then re-stack them for sale, Tim knew he could thrust the bucket into the main pile, tip out a few blocks, drive to a customer’s vehicle and transfer the wood directly.

In so doing, he saved time and effort, gave the customer a strong sense of his expertise, and had fun (while thumbing his nose at authority, in the great Australian tradition).

And by adding that his margin of error could (or could not) mean a few free blocks, he sealed the deal.

Entranced, I asked for a Punter’s Ton.

Tim displayed his enthusiasm and mastery while relating the tale of how he briefly startled one young lady by feigning intent to dump a Punter’s Ton on the back seat of her new, BMW convertible.

In five minutes flat, he made me feel like a colleague, a connoisseur, a co-conspirator and a risk taker – all at the same time.

And all for $32.95.

This enchanting episode reminded me of FISH! – a phenomenally popular book about a workplace management system with four concepts:

  1. Play.
  2. Make their (the customer’s) day.
  3. Be present.
  4. Choose your attitude.

I don’t know if Tim had read FISH! or was consciously applying its concepts. Clearly his masters were not fans.

I do know, however, that Tim combined these elements for a memorable experience that had me coming back until the day he left and all I could buy were sterile, statistically sound, stacks.

If Tim owned that yard, I’d never stop telling people to go there.

And if Tim could achieve that effect with mere red gum,

imagine the magic you could add to your business!


PS. I wasn’t the only one who liked this story. Seth Godin liked it so much, he put it in Purple Cow!

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

* When I asked permission to write about him, ‘Tim’ requested anonymity, as management did not like his methods. At all.

Entries and comments feeds.