In a time where instant gratification is growing and growing and attention spans are shrinking and shrinking, it is more important than ever to sharpen up and polish your hospitality skills. Now, don’t get me wrong, getting things done quickly is, in most cases, a very good thing. Who wouldn’t want to be able to book a vacation, buy movie tickets and a multitude of other things in just minutes (or less!)?
However, falling too heavily into this mindset can have its disadvantages where vital things are sacrificed in the process. Whether you are an employee of a financial institution or a customer/member of one, the sped up “now” mentality can hurt all parties. Customers/members can lose out on learning about incredibly important products and services that could save them a lot of money and benefit their lives greatly. On the flip side, as a bank or credit union employee, it is easy to get caught up in this “now” mentality and assume that every customer/member doesn’t care about your products and services and never wants to hear about them. If you stick to that belief you are only doing 50% of your job. When you detect genuine need and identify a product or service that can significantly help that customer/member, not educating them about it is doing them a grave disservice. We recognize that things can get busy and in-depth conversations might not be the best choice in a particular instance. However, we also know that these moments are not a majority of the time and there’s always a way to have a positive impact regardless of the traffic.
We can’t control the mentality of the customer/member who we are trying to assist. But, we can control our behavior and use a set of particular skills from a category that has been around for ages: hospitality. Smiling, making eye contact, offering a handshake and using a warm tone of voice are just a few examples of hospitality skills that are taken for granted to the point of falling by the “wayside”. This is true, not only in business, but also in day-to-day life in general! When you use these skills, you start off on a great first foot. Most of us are more willing to interact with someone else when we feel welcomed, respected and treated like we are valuable. We are more open to slowing down and listening to what others have to say when the interaction starts in a positive way. A warm and genuine smile, followed by a first-class tone of voice is an incredible way to start. That “one-two punch” alone can brighten a person’s day. It is also extremely important that customer/members see that behavior between you and your colleagues as well!
One of the most important parts of providing great hospitality is communicating with your customer/member. A simple personal compliment goes a long way in starting to build relationships. First, it demonstrates that you care and want to make them feel good. Secondly, it opens the door for future dialogue. Asking friendly open-ended questions creates a more personalized experience for the customer/member and also lets them know that you are interested in what they have to say. This type of engaging communication will most certainly build rapport. Compliments like “I really like that shirt!”, “I love your car!” and “That is a gorgeous ring!” can go a long way. Open-ended questions like “Where are you bringing the kids during vacation?” and “What was your favorite part of the musical?” will provide you with information that can identify commonality between you and your customer/member. This allows for the sharing of similar stories, resulting in stronger relationships. Actively communicating with your customer/member is essential to providing world-class hospitality.
Now this doesn’t mean that interactions should all be long conversations. The goal is to always be a trusted advisor to your customer/member in the most efficient way possible. That is why you should always try to come up with ways to make the enrollment process as fast and seamless as possible. A member/customer should never have to feel like they are working harder than you to give you their business by enrolling in a product or service.
When a customer/member receives incredible hospitality from the very first moment of contact, the odds of them opening up and sharing what they hold important will skyrocket dramatically. The more you know about a customer/member, the easier it will be to identify challenge areas and match up a product or service to help them overcome and rise above that challenge. Most importantly, you help them realize that they are valued and taken care of famously by their trusted advisor at their financial institution. This all begins with incredible hospitality skills.