We recently sat down with Kasasa’s VP of Retail Experience Melissa Thinger to talk about great retail experiences and how community financial institutions (CFIs) can create them.
What is a retail experience? It’s everything that happens after a customer or member walks in the door (and technically on your website, but that’s a topic for FIRSTBranch).
Kasasa: How can CFIs start improving their retail experience?
Melissa Thinger: One of the first things that any institution should examine is their mission. It’s an essential detail that many institutions overlook. Or maybe they have a mission statement, but it’s forgettable, bland, and doesn’t feel relevant to everyday work of running a community bank or credit union.
A clearly stated mission gives your staff a reason to believe that they are serving a purpose that is bigger than any single employee. The best mission statements are distinctive and accurately reflect the type of culture you want to build.
K: What happens if you don’t have a mission statement (or you don’t love the one you have)?
MT: It leaves your team wondering about their purpose and what they should stand for. If they don’t understand which values should guide their attitudes and behaviors then you are destined to see inconsistent performance and treatment of account holders.
K: Who should be involved in developing the mission statement?
MT: As many people as makes sense, but it should start with leadership. Start from the top and move down. Establish a steering committee to gather input from the entire team and streamline the decision process.
K: How do you prevent corporate jargon from killing the fire of the mission statement?
MT: The mission is a result of your process. But you can always take your mission statement and pull out a battle cry or rallying cry that still gets the gist of it across. Something shorter.
At one company I worked for, we ended up a with a verse, actually an acronym “I OWN IT” It stood for very actionable things that the staff could get behind.
Here at Kasasa, we have a mission statement that you can find on our website and in our employee training manual, etc. But we also have the phrase “win the war.” It’s a phrase that the whole company understands and gets behind.
Once you establish your mission statement and maybe your rallying cry, the next thing is to ensure that attitudes and behaviors match the statement.
When the RED (Retail Experience Development) Team calls (we do about 6,000 mystery shops per quarter) institutions, we have a really good sense for whose attitudes and behaviors match the mission statement.
K: Do you always check the mission statement before calling?
MT: I do when someone is having some concerns with training or their Mystery Shop scoring. Or if they’re looking for a starting point in upgrading their retail experience.
The mission statement is the cornerstone of everything you’re going to do. It’s equally important for customers and members as it is for staff. A lot of CFIs might think they have a great retail experience already.
K: How would you define a great retail experience?
MT: It starts with your mission: who you say you want to be. That’s why I focus so much on that with our clients. So if you’re wanting to be the prime financial institution for your account holders, you need to do a great job at cross-selling. If you want trust, you should do a great job building relationships on trust.
There are a bunch of standards you can put in place once you have a mission established. You shouldn’t have more than 20 individual standards; otherwise, staff will struggle to remember and observe them.
Many banks and credit unions want to be trusted as the go-to place in their community. If you want to be the go-to place, you need to ask their name in conversation and use it frequently throughout the interaction.
Chic-fil-A is one of my favorites. They surprised and delighted their market with a fast food experience that was friendly and goes above and beyond. They do this even through small things like ending a conversation with “my pleasure.” So there are small things like that that you can do to stand out from your competitors.
It’s important for staff to refrain from pointing at things when asked: “where can I find this?” Your staff should take the time to walk people over. Why couldn’t you go to a bank or credit union where you are treated as well as you are at Nordstrom’s?
K: Are there other common trust triggers?
MT: Yes, and I think this one will appeal to managers of frontline staff: “We’re not about quotas.”
There is a very small difference between providing excellent service and sales. If you provide that excellent service, people will give you their sales. To the point where you don’t have to feel like you’re pushing products on people.
If you aren’t talking about all the great products and services you have — if you’re not trying to find out what their needs are, and you’re just doing order-taking, you can’t really set yourself apart.
K: Who do you think is really nailing it?
MT: Nordstrom and Chic-fil-A (especially, because nobody expected great service from a fast-food company).
If you, as a bank or credit union, can invoke some fun, that would be great, because people don’t necessarily expect that from a financial institution. If that can fit in with your brand and mission, no financial institutions have really set foot in that space.
I also think you can also surprise in a not-good way. Sometimes people come in for very serious reasons, so you want to accommodate those serious situations. You don’t want to go overboard with levity.
K: How much of this is just hiring the right people?
MT: Leadership has to set the path for the culture. It’s important that the leadership models the values and mission in highly visible ways. The leadership team has to show them off first and frequently.
K: What can community financial institutions do right now to improve their retail experience?
- Examining and evaluating their current mission is a great start. If it’s something they can evaluate and change, then that’s the direction to go. Maybe it’s coming up with the shortened version, the battle cry.
- I would go for values; you want to limit it to five or less so people can remember them. Having values that people will rally behind is important.
- The leadership needs to set some service criteria or standards and put them in place. These are things we “always” do. We always do or say these things. We always treat them in this manner. We always thank them for their business in this way.
Once you start doing those three things, it should allow you to gain some traction in building your culture.
The other thing I like to suggest is that an illustration or visual representation of your values really helps staff understand the power and the meaning. For example, the American flag evokes some emotion, feelings of pride or happiness. It’s a symbol, and there are no words attached to that at all.
Hungry for more resources on developing your culture?
At Kasasa, our values are encoded into something we call the Patch. In fact, we even have a book that explains each value in detail with examples of how it plays out in day-to-day work. Each employee is required to read the book and is eventually tested on their knowledge.
If you would like a copy of our Patch book to use as a reference for building your own mission statement and values, we’d love to send you a copy. Just send us your information and make a note that you’d like a copy of the Patch book.