Online Dating

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With all of the recent technological advances we have seen over past 5-10 years, a new dating phenomenon has emerged; online dating.  If I were to guess, there have to be over 100 online dating websites that people visit religiously in their search for true love. With the hustle and Imagebustle of everyday life, for many people, this just seems to make sense. Having the ability to find your potential life partner with the click of a button sounds almost like a dream come true. I am fairly positive we are all familiar with the way this process works, so I will spare you the details.

I have heard many mixed reviews on this particular form of dating. On one hand, it works flawlessly. There are countless numbers of testimonials that tell the love story of two strangers who met online, and are now living happily ever after. However, for many people, it is not that easy. (Poor Manti ImageTeo). Through this process I have realized, that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. That is the tricky thing about the internet, you are not always 100% sure of what you are about to get into.

While on my credit card search, I figured I would venture down the convenience route, and apply for credit cards online. With my experience, I can say that this is as far as my online relationship exploration will go. I got rejected, not once, not twice, but from every single credit card I applied to. They gave me the whole “It’s not you, well actually yeah it is you” routine. Without the personal interaction, it was easy for these companies to reject me Imageon the spot, without even wanting to know if I had a good personality. With online dating, you are evaluated initially by your picture. The searching party can make initial judgments, and then chose where to go from there. With credit card applications, you are evaluated by your credit score, which for me is non-existent. Regardless of my intentions, I had no chance of getting approved over the computer.

What I did discover is that it is critical to have a plan of attack. With online dating, you have to have an idea of what exactly you are looking for.  It is important your interests, intentions and needs are clearly defined, or else you will get lost. What exactly was my plan for finding the right credit card for me? Stay tuned to find out.

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My New Relationship

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Since entering the real world, and traveling quite a bit with my job, it has been made clear to me that I would have to start a relationship, with a … credit card. Let me make myself very clear, the word relationship is not being used lightly here. I believe that in order to properly possess a credit card, one must understand the commitment it takes, and follow the same guidelines one would with dating. While dating, you don’t just jump in head first. It is a progression that leads to liking, which hopefully will lead mutual respect, and finally turn into love. I am going to walk you through the steps I took after finally deciding that I was ready to start this new relationship.

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First, you have to play the field a little bit, date around if you will. Don’t just jump into something without examining all of your options, because you wouldn’t want to get stuck in a relationship that would be difficult. (As my mom says, “Dani, be sure to have a top 5 list.” I’ll let you decided if she is talking about credit cards or men.) I have found that by dating, you discover information, whether it’s annoying habits or hidden fees, relatively early in the process. Once you decide what is best for you, you find out if the feelings are mutual.

I found that these cards, like some men, play hard to get. Just because you decided one is good for you, doesn’t necessarily mean they feel the same way. Throughout this process, I found myself pretending/hoping to be someone I wasn’t  just so I could get approved. Because of the fact I have no credit, it is hard for credit card companies to see me as a good fit. With countless rejections, and a few heartbreaks, I had to be honest with myself, and go with a card that was a little less attractive, but did have a “good personality”.  It turns out that this is going to ultimately be the best decision for me.

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Once the card is in my possession I will be able to start forming more of a connection. There will be ups and downs, as in any relationship, but what really matters is the commitment factor. If you are truly committed and responsible for your actions, it makes everything a whole lot easier.

 For the next couple of weeks, I am going to give you a rundown of my dating process. In today’s society, you can go about dating the old fashion way or there is a new process called online dating. I tried both. I visited a few big banks around Nashville, a few small ones, and even tested the online credit card application process. Will there be a difference? You’ll find out! 

Small Bank Visits

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In addition to my previous posts, I am going to talk about my experiences with the small banks I visited. The purpose for these visits was similar to the previous visits, in the sense I was looking into the customer experience at each location.

(Again, bank names will not be revealed.)

Small Banks (Under $1 Billion in assets):

My first small bank experience was in Nashville. It was located on the side of a major road in the area. This branch design was different from anything I had seen. It was a very open floor plan, with desks in the open, and stands located at various locations around the space. The staff was friendly, willing to help and attentive. It was a refreshing atmosphere to walk into. As soon as I walked into the door, someone made an effort to say hello, and assure me someone would be with me shortly. This place was packed. I am not sure if it was because of the time I was there (Friday around 3 pm), but it was impressive.

The next small bank I went to was in Franklin, TN. It had the same open floor plan, but it was a little more formal, with an actual teller desk located on one side. The staff members were more than willing to assist me, partly because I was the only person there. After a short exchange with a worker, who gave me some information about the bank, I left feeling like she truly valued my time, and hoped that I would be back soon.

Finally, I visited another bank in Franklin, which just recently finished construction. I was very surprised to walk in and notice the same old bank space. Honestly, it was everything that you would expect when you walk into a bank. No bells and whistles, just a lot of the same.

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Smaller banks have a unique opportunity that larger institutions do not. These banks can take risks. Although they need to be careful from a financial perspective that their risk will produce reward, at the end of the day, they are able to try some different things that not all large banks can. These are not the banks who will try innovative ATM machines, or really financially taxing products, but they can lead the way in creating a unique customer experience.

I was also surprised to find that my outfit choices really made no difference in how I was treated by the staff.

After assessing my experiences I have put some thoughts together.

1. It seems like smaller banks have the opportunity to experiment more with how they handle the overall customer experience.

2. Just a simple hello can make a big difference.

3. The average bank branch works. So if it isn’t broken, why fix it?

 

Big Bank Visits

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Last week I went on some undercover bank visits. The purpose was to examine the customer experience of each location. Here is what I discovered:

(Due to the fact that I am undercover, bank names will not be revealed.)

Big Banks (Over $50 Billion in assets):

The first bank I visited was in Memphis, and was located on the bottom floor of a high-rise. The environment was very sleek. I was not greeted, but the overall layout was very self-explanatory. Though I did not talk to anyone, I could tell that this specific location was made for people who work in or around the building. My feeling is that in situations like these, customer service is important, but the ease of use and convenience factor is what will determine the overall success.

My second visit was to your typical side of the road, mainstream, popular bank. No one greeted me, or even looked up from what they were doing to notice I had walked in. Needless to say I was disappointed. Unlike the previous visit, this branch does not attract the same type of clientele, which was easily revealed from the customers inside. There was what looked to be a soccer mom, a teenage boy, an elderly couple, a man who looked like he had been painting all day and a mom in her workout clothing. These customers definitely need more attention paid to them.

Finally, to round out the “big” bank visits, I visited a location in Downtown Nashville. Located on the bottom floor of a high-rise, it was obvious that it was not a bank people went out of their way to go to, and from the lack of customer service, I don’t think the employees were used to seeing new people either. Much like the “business professional” bank in Memphis, the customers didn’t get special attention, but also didn’t seem to mind. Again, the overall ease of use factor was what made this bank successful. People were getting in and out in no time.

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When it comes to big banks, my overall feeling is that their customer turnover rate is much higher than those of smaller banks. These locations see a lot more customers day in and day out, so the personal connections do not need to be there. Although it is important that these customers are getting the attention they need, it is not critical the staff there sits down to share life stories and a good laugh with them. Big banks have a much different purpose than the smaller community banks do.

Even though a majority of us bank with these bigger institutions, I personally do not think the lack of personal interaction will urge me to switch banks. With the evolution of mobile and online banking, it seems like there is an even less need for customers to have these interactions at all.

In the past, has customer service from your bank affected your overall feelings towards banking there?

What is more important to you; Convenience or Customer Service? 

Going Undercover

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For the past couple of weeks I have conducted some undercover work. Let me first explain my mission. I thought it would be interesting to walk into a few banks, both “big” and “small” to simply scope out the overall environment of the location. I was very interested in the customer service, customer experience and overall atmosphere of the various bank branches.

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Does someone greet me right away?

Where do I go for help? 

How am I treated?

What is the overall look of the bank?

These were some of questions that I was curious to find the answers to. For many people, first impressions can leave a lasting impact. More often than not, a first impression can be made within seconds of arrival. These first impressions, for any business, are a critical component to keep customers coming back. It is my understanding that you do not want customers to be a “one-and-done” deal. The most successful businesses are the ones that make their customers enjoy their time, and want to come back for more.

After making a few stops at banks in Memphis, I decided it would be very interesting to take this little experiment a step further. Because of the fact I was attending business meetings in Memphis, I was dressed in business professional attire. I was curious to find out if wearing jeans and a Chicago Blackhawks shirt (15-0-3!) made a difference in how I was treated.

Not only was I interested in the environment and customer service, but what will be interesting to see the differences, if there are any, between the big banks, small banks, location, city, and many other factors that all make up the organization.

I am excited to share with you my experiences, thoughts and interactions. Stay tuned! 

If there are any questions, comments or suggestions for future blogs, please feel free to let me know! 

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Something New

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For the next couple of blog entries, I have decided to switch things up a bit. I am going to be visiting banks around the Nashville area, and fill you in on my experiences, thoughts, and overall feelings I get from each branch. I will visit big banks (Wells Fargo, Bank of America, ECT.) and smaller community banks.

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  • Because I need to take on the daunting task of opening a credit card, my first few entries will consist of experiences from that adventure.

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  • Next, I will explore the social media practices, or lack thereof, from specific locations.

 

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  • Finally, I will fill you all in on the customer experience, location and environment of the small “farm town” banks, as well as the bigger market banks in downtown Nashville.

 

I am really looking forward to the next month or so. Because these entries are going to consist of customer related topics, I REALLY would appreciate any feedback, questions or topics that you would like to see blogged about.  

I hope you all enjoy the ride! 

 

Local. Mobile. Social.

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One of the last sessions I had the chance to sit in on at AOBA13 was “Local. Mobile. Social. Profitable. Checking.” This particular session featured Mike Branton and Dave DeFazio from Strategy Corps. Strategy Corps provides consumer checking solutions that generate customer-friendly fee income by building better banking Imagerelationships with individual and local small business customers, and incorporates innovative mobile phone delivery of services and focused social media messaging that really connects with customers. I personally thought this session was great! They introduced their product BaZing, and talked about the three main areas they try to touch

Mobile:

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Through the use of mobile devices, the consumer is able to do many things that can help them out with purchase decisions. They can benefit from the use of coupons, compare shopping prices and find location based offers. Banks can really take advantage of the whole mobile phone trend, not only by providing a mobile banking app, but also by offering these services to their customers. 

Social:

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Through social media, you are able to reach out to an unlimited amount of people relatively easily. Unlike many other businesses, people don’t bank because they want to, they bank because they have too. To make the customer experience memorable it is important to generate unexpected and unselfish communication. 

During the session, it was revealed through a survey that 51% of bankers did not have a Facebook, while 49% did. Also, what I thought was surprising was that only 22% had an active email marketing plan, while 82% did not. 

Local:

ImageFor community banks, it is important to remember the word COMMUNITY. More often than not, these banks are the ones who support local businesses. Because of this, it is critical that they push their customers to support local retail businesses. This can be accomplished by rewarding people for buying locally. Mike Branton said, “It is important to be a community connector. Get local retail customers connected with local retail businesses.”

Through their innovative checking account, Strategy Corps offers benefits that people want to pay for. Not only is it an additional way to generate fee income, but it is a way to be better engaged with customers. It is safe to say that BaZing, and the entire concept behind it sure passes the test from this Generation-Y’er

 

Fear is BAD!

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Well it was an early morning for the entire Bank Director team today, but we got our coffee in us and are very excited to start day 2 of AOBA13!

Before getting too far ahead of myself, I want to talk about another sessions that I sat in on yesterday. The breakout session was called “We Just Bought a Bank, Now What Do We Do?and it featured Rick Childs, Director, Assurance & Financial Advisory Services, from Crowe Horwath LLP.

There is always a lot of talk about what needs to be done leading up to the acquisition, and we all know that can be a very long process. It is very important to realize that once an acquisition is made, that is when a lot of the hard work begins. That is precisely what this session’s focus was.

From an accounting standpoint, Childs noted the importance from day 1 through day 731. With all of the rules and regulations that are out there, it is critical to understand and complete everything that must be done. He also noted that “accounting is not the reason why deals aren’t getting done”.  From a taxation standpoint, it was pretty much the same message. Making sure you keep your organization in check, and up to speed will make the entire process much more enjoyable, on both sides of the deal.

What Childs really wanted people to know was that “fear is bad”. He truly feels that you do not have to go out and sell your bank just because someone told you to. Because of the past few years many people feel down in the dumps, but Childs wanted to ensure everyone that they “have the opportunity to serve your community better. You control your own destiny.” Those words must be pretty uplifting to hear, considering the past few years from bankers.

Here are a few links from the Bank Director website that features Rick Childs as he discusses M&A in 2013, and the results from the Crowe survey, which was completed earlier this year.

M&A Expectations in 2013

The Price is Not Right

And so it begins …

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And so it begins. Bank Director’s annual Acquire or Be Acquired (#AOBA13) conference, which is widely regarded as the financial industry’s premier M&A event.  This year the event is located at the breathtaking Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale Arizona. With over 600 bankers in attendance, I can now see why this has been one of the only things talked about at the office for months now. At the moment I am slightly overwhelmed at the overall magnitude of the event, but I am very eager to get my very first AOBA under my belt.

Because of my travel arrangements, the first session I was able to sit in on was the Keynote address by Ray Davis, President & CEO, Umpqua Holdings Corporation. This Portland, Oregon based bank is redefining the industry with their truly unique way of offering financial services to their customers. While they offer all of classic banking services, Ray Davis also revealed to us today that you can also walk in and see a yoga class, or the local bowling team meeting there. Personally, I think this is such an interesting concept. Umpqua makes the effort to truly reach the community they are in. In the long run, I truly believe this will make a huge difference for them.

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Here are a couple quotes from Ray Davis:

  • Size has nothing to do w/ remaining a community bank. It’s a state of mind & the self-discipline to stay the course.
  • Growth Strategy: Invest, Create, Expand.
  • Don’t wait. Laggers will be losers.
  • Technology – How does it enhance customer experience?

There were many great presenters today, and it is safe to say that Acquire or be Acquired is well underway! That’s it for now, stay tuned to see what the rest of the conference has to offer!

Are You Ready?

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The other night a group of my friends and I went out to dinner. After taking full advantage of the 2-1 pizza & beverage deal, we figured it was time to head home. We asked for the check, and all proceeded to pay. Each and every one of us used a card, not one person had cash. Then, I started to think back to past outings, and realized that it is always the same. It seems to be a very rare occurrence that any of us have physical cash on us.

After this revelation, I wanted to do some more digging. I opened up my handy dandy Bank of America app for the iPhone, and looked at some of my latest purchase prices. They are as follows:

  • $4.83
  • $4.69
  • $5.03
  • $1.07 <– my personal favorite.

These prices are pretty embarrassing to charge to a card, but is that becoming the new normal? There have recently been a lot of talks about transforming into a “cashless” society. A blog I read on BankNXT titled Imagining a Cashless Future talks about what that future could look like. Melanie Friedrichs says “Financial innovations come in many shapes and sizes, but for the most part they all follow a general trend: they turn physical processes into digital ones. The so-called “payments revolution” has often made me wonder what will happen when innovation manages to displace the most physical aspect of finance, cash.”

If in fact we are moving in that direction, will the idea take off among older generations, as it has with Generation-Y? An article on MyBanktracker.com talks about how some current and future generations understand that money is money, even if you don’t necessarily see it. The author of the article Simon Zhen notes “many proponents of cash argue that cash offers psychological feedback — it “hurts” when you see money leave your wallet. A recent experience tells me that, in the future, we will be able to feel the pain of spending, even if it’s through electronic payment methods.” While older generations are used to making cash payments, many young people are only familiar with card transactions. The same psychological element of cash may not be the same as was once believed.

I am very excited to see the next round innovations that are beginning to roll out to push a more cashless society, but I have a feeling many will not feel the same. What do you think; are you ready for a cashless society?


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