And this week – for weekend duffers like me – marks golf’s high holy days. The Masters tournament begins today.
Think of it, the coveted green jacket, the resplendent azaleas painted every color in God’s palate. Green grass my wife would kill for. Bobby Jones, Palmer, Nicklaus, Watson, Trevino, Tiger and Phil.
There’s not a golfer alive who hasn’t longed to stroll across Rae’s Creek, or to walk Amen Corner. Fortunately, I have been one of the lucky ones to have played there.
Words do no justice to the wonder that is the Augusta National Golf Club.
But there are five lessons that community bankers can learn from the folks at Augusta that could help give your customers a banking experience unlike any other. Consider:
- Respect: A dear friend, David Housel, the legendary former athletic director at my alma mater, once said that one of the things he loved about Augusta was the quiet that comes as a player prepares to strike the ball – “Hundreds, thousands so quiet you can hear the click of the putter hitting the ball.”
For bankers, that respect means treating every customer with respect and grace, regardless of age, appearance, or assets.
- History and tradition matter: It’s no secret that banking has taken a beating in recent years, some of it deserved. And you don’t have to look any farther than the presidential campaign to see that financial institutions are still the piñata of choice when some seek a scapegoat for the world’s ills.
But banking, especially community banking, is still an honorable profession that can make a huge, positive impact on our communities, one customer, one family at a time. If you think your bank doesn’t make a difference when it sponsors a community event or youth sports team, think again.
And if you want to know the historic difference a bank can make in a community, talk to your most senior bank customers. Listen to their stories.
There was a story on the CBS News program “60 Minutes” several years ago about a community bank that helped its customers invest in Coca-Cola stock. Over time, that effort helped residents in a small Georgia town enjoy real financial security. Cynics might say it can’t be done these days. If you agree, find another line of work.
- Appreciate your customers: Those fortunate friends of mine who have walked the pristine emerald grounds of Augusta remark about how welcoming the membership of Augusta is to its annual visitors, the fans who may be coming to the course for the only magical time in their lives.
Keep in mind, membership at Augusta National is extended by invitation only to captains of business and government. Among Augusta’s newest members is former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
And those members greet everyone with warmth. And in those rare instances that there is a scrap of paper on the ground, members collect it. The respect spills over to visitors, who collect and properly dispose of every stray piece of refuse. Augusta’s huge galleries have bought in, in part because of reverence for this wonderful place, and because of the members’ gracious example. The lesson? Appreciate your customers, and they’ll return the favor. And they’ll be loyal to your brand. Simple kindness makes a difference.
- Little things matter: Greet every customer. Make sure the coffee is hot and the ice water or tea cold. Straighten the stacks of deposit slips on a table or at a teller window. Respond as quickly as you can to a customer. And if you don’t know the answer, find someone who does. The way friends have described the grass at Augusta – “not a blade out of place”—makes the course sound like a well-combed, well-scrubbed, well-dressed little boy ready for Sunday School.
That attitude about “little things” matters just as much in your bank’s lobby as at Augusta.
- And last, mind your manners. A friend of middle age who banks at one of the megabanks recounts the story of a time when a young teller called him “buddy.”
The two were complete strangers, save the single window transaction.
The words of Augusta National founder and golf legend Bobby Jones apply here:
“In golf, the customs and etiquette and decorum are as important as the rules of play.”
The same is true in banking. Never sell short the power of “Yes, Ma’am; No, Ma’am; Please and Thank You.” And don’t forget the power and elegance of a handwritten note. It can make as much a difference in its own way as a brilliant ad in telling your bank’s story and communicating its values.
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Here’s another article about the power of “Yes, Ma’am, No, Ma’am, Thank You, Ma’am and Please”.