Customer Loyalty

by John Clayton, SVP Community Banking
Washington Financial Bank

For as long as I live, I will be in awe of this guy....the guy at the fruit stand in Binghamton, NY. All he sold was fruit and at prices higher than the grocery store. Yet, my parents wouldn’t buy fruit anywhere else. Why was that? Not only were his prices higher, but listen to the list of the other conditions that worked against his business:

    • He was located off the main drag, more than five miles from the nearest grocery store, so it would have been way more convenient for his customers to buy fresh fruit at the grocery store with all the other groceries.
    • His customers typically had to wait in a long line to check out after gathering their order together.
    • His “parking lot” was nothing more than some loose gravel over dirt.
    • His stand was cramped with very little “walking around” space and his products were displayed chaotically.
    • There were never any “sales,” “specials,” or other inducements to shop there.

So why would mom and dad shop nowhere else? Because he had great fruit and because of the way this guy treated his customers, that’s why! Here’s how it would work. We would pull into an available space in front of the fruit stand and we would all get out of the car. The owner would come over and greet us and speak to my parents by their name (I never did find out how he knew their name but I would bet that he asked them the first time they visited). Then he would enthusiastically tell all of us about the fresh peaches or apples or grapes or plums or cherries (depending on the time of year) he just got in and our whole family would be given a sample of whatever he was proudest of that week. When it was time to check out, he would weigh the produce, price it, and then, after it was priced, he would “throw in” a little extra---an extra stem of grapes, or a couple more apples, or a handful of cherries. Even we kids recognized that this was a “WOW” experience.

There are lots of customers just like my parents who are seeking out that “little extra” and are prepared to reward businesses who provide it with their loyalty. What is a “little extra” in the financial services business? Greeting our customers with a smile and an introduction, and whenever possible, using their name.....Going the extra mile in enthusiastically explaining our products, comparing and contrasting the products’ features.....Acknowledging customers’ children or other family members.....Thanking them for their business or for their interest in our bank. If you think about it just a little, you will come up with a list of your own! You know how you like to be treated.....just put yourself in our customers’ shoes and you’ll know what to do!

Most banks have had an extraordinary record of customer satisfaction. Our challenge now is to move our customers from “satisfied” to “loyal” as we look for ways to provide that “little extra.”

John Clayton is the SVP of Community Banking at Washington Financial. Washington Financial is an 8 branch community bank located just south of Pittsburgh, PA. Over the past six years, John has been the catalyst in helping Washington Federal expand the bank service culture to a new level of sales and service excellence.