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Helping Bank Tellers Make More Referrals

Updated on April 11, 2013

Strategies for Coaching Your Bank Tellers to Make Successful Sales Referrals

Tellers have the opportunity to interact with more customers than any other employee within your bank or credit union. Although a tellerâs primary job is to provide fast, friendly and accurate processing of customer transactions, a teller is in a unique position to assist in making product and service recommendations to help customers meet their financial goals.

Quest Analytics Karl Keller
Quest Analytics Karl Keller

Increasing Success With Bank Teller Referrals

Coaching Your Tellers to Success in Making Sales Referrals

I have a question for you. Where do you get most of your repeat business? If your answer is anything other than the teller line, you may be missing a major opportunity to help and serve your customer base.

Over the years, tellers have gotten a bum rap. In many cases tellers are the lower paid associates in your organization. They are often asked to work odd hours, travel to multiple locations and work weekends. With all this going for the job, as you can expect, tellers have one of the highest turnover rates in our industry.

Now, ask yourself, which associate in your bank spends more face-to-face time with your customers? Yep, it is the teller. More of your customers talk with your tellers than any other employee. So, who in your organization could have the most impact to generate new business? I think you get the point. Tellers are valuable members of your relationship building team. Successful organizations achieving high levels of quality teller referrals understand the most important factors that affect teller referral success.

OK, let’s start with the basics. Let’s talk about communication. (that’s a big 10-4 good buddy--over) No, I am not talking about communicating with someone over a CB radio. I am talking about communicating with your customer. When communicating with your customer, a teller uses both verbal and non-verbal communications. Verbal communications are the words we say and how we say them. Non-verbal communication is how we look and act when in the customer view. Both verbal and non-verbal communications are extremely important when we are trying to deliver a message or have a short discussion with our customer.

If 100% of communication is made up of both verbal and non-verbal communication, which one is most important? Well, you may be surprised to know that non-verbal communication is most important. Your customer will pick up on your teller’s attitude, body language and eye contact more so than the actual words that are said. More than 55% of the message that we send, will be through the use of non-verbal communication. This is the reason why personal grooming, the clothing we wear and the way we act when onstage is so important.

Onstage vs. Offstage – When in your branch, a customer expects you to act a specific way that is consistent with your role in the organization. They have learned this through their own life experiences. You can not change their perception of what a teller should look like or how one should act. It is just a given. In your branch, you have two main areas where people work. One area we call onstage and another we call offstage. An onstage area is any area where you would be in clear view of a customer (Teller line, CSR desks, waiting areas etc). The offstage areas are the backrooms such as the copier room, lunch break room or anywhere a customer does not normally see us. It is extremely important that when we are onstage, we play the role that our customer is expecting us to play. If we are a teller, we need to act like a teller when onstage. We don’t want our customer to see us doing backstage activities when we are onstage.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you just flew your whole family down to Walt Disney World expecting a wonderful vacation. Once you walked through the gates at the Magic Kingdom, you went immediately to see the star attraction—Mickey Mouse. As a customer with preconceived expectations of Disney World, what would your reaction be if you found Mickey sipping a beer and smoking a cigarette over near one of the attractions? Wow. That’s just wrong. Mickey should not be smoking. Doesn’t he know that smoking can be harmful to his health? Surely he must. OK, back to banking. Yes, this can happen in your institution as well. When onstage, everyone must play their roll when in customer view. When we don’t, it creates credibility problems even before we start talking about referrals. So, here are four key items to achieving teller referral success:

1) Non-verbal Communication – When a customer walks in the door and enters the teller queue, they are watching your tellers at work. When viewing a teller, your customer can easily see if the teller is happy, sad, angry or upset just by watching their actions and facial expressions. When the customer watches the teller work, they are looking at just about everything that the person is doing and how they look from an appearance perspective. So, if the teller is a major contributor to your bank or credit union brand, how they look and act is extremely important. Make sure your tellers are dressing and acting appropriately to match your institutional brand. If you are a casual organization, everyone should dress casual. If you are more of a formal organization, everyone should dress formal. Consistency is very important so that your verbal messages will be properly received by your customer with minimal distraction.

2) Verbal Communication – The words we say and how we say them is also very important to generating a referral. This is exactly why a positive attitude generates positive results. Excited and motivated tellers show genuine interest for serving the customer. This is expressed in the words they use and how the words are delivered. Something as simple as the words “Good Morning” can be delivered with a positive attitude and excitement or they can be delivered sounding like Eeyore (Ohh bother…). Which do you want for your institution?

3) Listening Skills – When looking for referrals, it is so important that we listen closely to each and every customer. What we are listening for are real life events that have an associated financial need. Customers often talk about things that are going on in their life while they wait for their transaction to be complete. As tellers deepen the relationship with each customer, the customer will talk about different activities or events that are happening in their life. Maybe it is a new baby in the family or perhaps a change of job, etc. Each of these life events has a specific financial need. Why not be the one to help fulfill the need instead of letting it walk out the door?

4) Engaging Questions – Just as important to listening to your customer, it is also important to engage a customer with a few questions. Yes, I just heard the gears in your head churning-- if we ask lots of questions, won’t that slow down our teller lines? Yes, it may slow them down a bit but it does not have to. Showing genuine interest in your customer by asking a few focused questions builds and deepens a relationship which is exactly what leads to increased customer loyalty. Here are the two magical words that you can use to generate interest. The words are “I’M CURIOUS.” That’s right. I’m Curious. Here is how it works.

“I’m curious, I noticed you are depositing a paycheck today, many of our customers use direct deposit. If you have a minute, can I have one of our personal bankers talk with you about direct deposit?”

“I’m curious, I noticed that you have a CD maturing later this month. If you have time today, could I have Mary, your personal banker, talk with you about renewal options so you maximize your interest?”

“I’m curious, I see you have many checks for me to deposit today for your business. Have you heard about our new service called remote deposit capture? This new service saves you time and effort in traveling to the branch each day to make routine deposits. If you have a minute, I would be happy to have Mary, your personal banker, discuss this with you in more detail.”

Teller referrals can be a major source of repeat business with just a little bit of extra effort. If you want quality referrals, everyone needs to think about both verbal and non-verbal messages that are being sent to each customer. With every customer touch, you have the opportunity to enrich a relationship and generate true customer loyalty. Don’t miss your next chance for teller referral success.

You can learn more about teller referral success at or on Twitter at @questanalytics

Teller Referrals Rock!

Community Banking and Credit Union Sales and Service Strategies - Bank Sales Techniques, Tools, Training and Coaching

Quest Analytics is a financial services technology and consulting company specializing in helping banks and credit unions grow quickly and profitably. Our core values focus on helping your organization expand existing relationships using customer behavioral analytics to identify new sales, service, and retention opportunities. By combining proven technologies with top notch sales training, Quest is uniquely positioned to help your organization grow at record pace.

Quest Analytics Karl Keller
Quest Analytics Karl Keller

Positive Attitude for Relationship Building Success

A Critical Element of Community Bank Sales Success is Often as Simple as Smile

January is here and the holidays are now behind us. For many, the post-holiday blues have set in making us feel down in the dumps about work and the regular banking day-to-day grind. It would be nice if the daily news reports on the economy were more positive but they are not. If we believe everything we read, the sky must be falling and we should prepare for tough times ahead.

So, how does all this negativity affect your branch network? How would you rate the sales and service attitude in your branch locations this month--extremely positive, neither positive or negative, or down right BLAH?

If you rated your branch network sales and service attitude anything other than extremely positive, it is more than likely time for a tune-up. A positive sales and service attitude presented by your associates towards your customers directly impacts sales growth success.

Here are the top five things you can do to help improve sales and service attitude in your branch and get people moving in the right direction

1) Good Morning Kick - Start. Starting each day at a branch or contact center with a quick five-minute kick-start meeting helps to gather the troops and set a positive attitude for the day. Remember, each person may be coming to work with a different set of problems on his or her mind. Perhaps someone had a problem getting the kids off to school this morning, or perhaps someone else had a car that would not start? You may or may not be aware of the daily issues facing your staff so the morning kick-start meeting is a great time to focus your team for the day and let everyone get on their “game face” before starting the day. Let everyone know why they are working today. -- to HELP and care for the customers. That’s right, not to push products or to force customers to take that electronic banking option. Instead, we want to concentrate on actually HELPING our customers with whatever financial needs they may have. Remind everyone that by helping our customers, we are deepening the relationship which will naturally lead to more sales success and happier customers.

2) Use More Positive Praise. Look for every opportunity to provide positive praise to your branch associates. Each day, use one associate as an example and tell everyone about what made their positive performance special for the customer. Never forget the power of positive praise for a job well done.

3) Display a Positive Attitude Yourself. If you are a manager and are looking for better attitude from of your associates, remember a positive attitude starts with you. People learn from great mentors. Be assured that if you are a “crab,” your associates will pick up on this and it will affect their performance for the day. You must always lead by example.

4) Don’t Forget to Smile. Sure it sounds crazy, but smiling sets the tone for everything. Whether you are face-to-face with a customer or talking with them on the phone—smile. Think you can’t hear a smile on the phone? Think again. Try putting up a smiley post-it note on the frame of your monitor or on the base of your phone. Place a small mirror somewhere around your work area. Are you smiling or frowning? Keep reminding yourself to smile for 20 days and it will quickly become a habit. You would never believe this but I went to a bank last year that was paying each customer a five dollar bill if they could catch the teller not smiling during the transaction. Whose brilliant idea was this I thought to myself? What benefit is there in making your customer responsible for employee attitude? Please, don’t make the customer responsible for your attitude. Instead, show the customer your positive attitude by HELPING them and proactively responding to their needs

5) Extreme Kidding Around. How many times have you seen a mom in the teller line towing along two young ones. If you haven’t noticed, kids have no patience for waiting. Children expect things to happen instantly. Why not use this opportunity to build deeper relationships with the customer instead of hiding or staring at the parent trying to manage the child meltdown? Start by showing interest in ALL children that visit your branch. Compliment them on how big they are getting, how cute they are, etc. Forget about lollipops and other candy, and give them a real banking experience instead. What kid does not want to see some money? Show them a $100 bill. WOW!! Show them where the vault is located. Set aside one safe deposit box that is filled with plastic coins or some other non-tooth decaying treat. Even better, have some collectable kid coins made with your bank logo on it. Each time they come in, give them another coin for their collection. Does this take a few minutes of your time? Sure it does, but it shows you care and it can also be fun which helps your attitude and those around you. More importantly you just totally impressed mom and she is going to tell five other moms about her banking experience the next time she gets together with friends.

Why is a positive sales and service attitude so important? It is important because your customer has a choice. They can continue to visit the same old bank or credit union or they may choose to walk across the street to a competitor. Given our economy and the competition for new deposit dollars, there is no room for a bad customer experience. Every customer touch must be executed with a total customer caring attitude.

Can you force someone to have a positive customer caring attitude? No, you can’t. But you can create a work environment that makes it difficult to be a “crab.” A positive attitude is contagious. Use your influence to spread a bit of the good stuff this week and make a difference.

Bank Marketing Finds Success in Personal Relationships and Valued Customers

Within five miles of my house, there has to be at least two dozen sandwich shops. Yet, one of them stands above all others. It is a Subway® store. There are three others just like it within that five mile radius of my home. But, I always go to the one specific store and have for years.

Is the food any better or different than the others? Not really. I go because I feel valued there. They provide me a great customer experience. The team that works there welcomes every single customer as they come into the store no matter how busy they are. The smile from behind the counter and the “Welcome to Subway” resonate strongly with me and are the best marketing they could have. I even drive past the other restaurants when I am out just to go to this specific location. Funny how such little things can have a big impact on the customer experience.

Many community banks and credit unions also stand out to their customers or members in much the same way. A friendly and warm greeting as they enter the branch, no matter how busy your staff are, is a great start and great free bank marketing. Another great way is to ditch the hard sales or bank marketing pitch and spend the time getting to know your customer and their needs through a sales interview.

One of our customers calls this the ‘Wow!’ factor and aims for it at all of his branches for every interaction. Another simple way to wow your customer is to simply wish them a happy birthday. We know the birthday of nearly all of our customers now due to regulations so we can take advantage of that piece of information to demonstrate to our customers that we know and appreciate them. The results from this simple action produce tremendous good will from your customers and give you that edge over any of your competitors. It works so well, many bank marketing departments of our clients have started to have branches call customers to tell them happy birthday with similar results. Others do the same thing with customer anniversaries for accounts, such as a one-year or five-year anniversary for checking or money market accounts.

Recent media coverage has created an impression that banks are greedy and not concerned about their customers. Imagine receiving a call from your institution that your account was getting ready to enter dormancy and they wanted to remind you again so you could avoid the associated fees and keep that account active. Perhaps it is a call to offer a better mortgage or other loan rate to a customer that has high rates by today’s standards. These personal touches and a positive attitude let customers you know that you have a vested interest in them and value their business and trust in you. This is bank marketing based on creating the customer experience.

These types of customer interactions most often do not lead to an immediate increase in sales. However, they occasionally do, although that is not the end goal. I can point to many of our clients who offer stories of people who had been putting off a new account until a friendly call or interaction reminded them and made them confident that this was the institution with which they wanted to expand their relationship. People appreciate the personal attention and in this world of e-this and i-that, it is increasingly rare and really does make you stand out to your customers.

Institutions are finding success using leading bank CRM (customer relationship management) and bank marketing tools such as Quest's IQLeads, IQProspects, and Teller Referral Assistant. These systems help banks move beyond traditional MCIF capabilities and create a true customer experience by facilitating real-time interactions with customers.

This is the inherent value of these efforts, to improve the image of your institution in the mind of your customers or members which at some point down the line will produce new accounts or even referrals of friends and family. Sounds a lot like the end goal of bank marketing, right? While the larger banks are moving to more impersonal customer service models to improve efficiencies and reduce costs, successful community banks and credit unions know that their own customers and members appreciate the personal attention. You can still offer the convenience of self-service banking and complement it with your personal attention for in-branch transactions and even personal calls to alert customers to activity or even say happy birthday.

Define what you want your customer experience to be and train your staff to deliver on it. This is the new bank marketing in action at the front-line by creating a great customer experience that sets you apart. Set the service standard and be the branch office that people drive out of their way to get to because they feel appreciated. Earn their business and trust with every visit. This is your differentiator—it’s what sets you apart from the cold, impersonal style of the big banks.

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