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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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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The Moral Of The Story Is …

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So in the past 12 hours I have experienced my first bank card security breach.

Upon going to pay for my yearly membership at a local gym in Franklin TN, my card was declined not once, not twice, but three times. I was very confused because I had just gotten paid and knew that there were enough funds in the account to make the purchase (thanks to my mobile app!). After coming to the realization that this was not a sign from God telling me that I didn’t need to join the gym, I came to the conclusion that I should call Bank of America just to make sure that everything was okay. 

When I got home, I had to force myself away from the TV (because the Bachelor was on), and called the oh so dreaded 1-800 number banks provide. After typing in my account information, last 4 digits of my social security number, and answered personal questions to verify it was actually me calling, I got this very nice guy on the phone who said he would be able to assist me. I have to admit, it was great to talk to an actual person as fast as I did because I absolutely hate those automated answering services. After confirming my last 5 purchases were actually made by me (Chickfila, Smoothie-King, Subway, Chill Spot and Publix) we were able to one, see that I eat out a lot, and two continue to figure out what happened to my account. 

Apparently what happened was that a company I had made a purchase from had gotten their database broken into and card information was stolen. He informed me that whenever you make a purchase with your card, the company has to store all of the card information in a database. When those third party data bases get broken into the process that follows is the bank puts all of the cards belonging to them on restriction. This simply means they don’t allow hefty purchases to be made using that card number. They then shut down my account, told me they would send me a new card and that if I needed cash to go INTO the bank and withdraw money the “old fashion” way. (Weird

I fell asleep knowing all was well, and then at about 5:30 am, I realized that I had purchased an airplane ticket online over the weekend to travel to Dallas to see my boyfriend for the upcoming long weekend. The problem with this was that it had not yet shown up in my account records. So I called Bank of America again, and confirmed that apparently my flight was not, and could not be paid for. So today I will have to figure out the whole airline mess, which I’m sure will inspire another blog entry. 

But here are the morals to this story:

  • Banks do an excellent job making sure that their customer’s funds are safe and secure. I was also reaffirmed that if funding was taken, they would be able to refund 100% of it.

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  • Customer service is very important, and actually talking to a live person makes a huge difference.

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  • Long distance relationships are tricky. There is always a chance something could get messed up.

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  • And finally, just because your card gets declined while paying for a gym membership, doesn’t mean it’s a sign from God that you shouldn’t join.  

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