Where’s the nearest branch?

Here’s another story about the need to always try to “add value” to every customer interaction instead of just answering questions or merely being an order taker.

It was a bitterly-cold Friday evening in Melville, NY (in Long Island) when a call came into my CitiPhone unit for the Brooklyn/Long Island/Staten Island Region.

It originated from the CBC/Citicard Banking Center (ATM site) at our Freeport branch…yes, br #220, home of Herb Myers, head of LI Branches & Bill Mullins, Area Ops Manager.

The branch had closed for the day & the customer needed cash.

All of Citibank’s proprietary ATMs were equipped with an “auto-dialer phone” by each machine…if the customer required any assistance, they could just pick up the phone hanging next to the ATM & they would be automatically be connected to our CitiPhone unit.

In addition, on our end, we knew that the originating call came from a customer standing by one of our ATMs and, in fact, the service representative would receive information as to the actual location of the ATM.

(Note: We taught our phone system to “recognize” the incoming phone #, then flash enhanced information…”CBC call #220″…across the rep’s phone.)

In this case, the rep was able to see that the call came from the ATM @ our Freeport branch. Freeport was located along the southern shore of Long Island, not far from its western border with the County of Queens in NYC.

As mentioned, the caller needed some cash this frigid wintry evening, but the branch itself was no longer open.

He wanted to know where the nearest Citibank branch (that was still open with tellers) was located so he could get cash.

The rep did an excellent job in identifying our Smith Haven Mall Branch #628 as still being open with teller service.

The Smith Haven Mall Branch was located along Long Island’s northern shore & much further east in comparison to the Freeport branch. The rep actually provided the caller with wonderful driving instructions from Freeport to the Smith Haven Mall, being very specific as to which highways, exits & streets to take as well as various landmarks to help pinpoint the exact location of the branch.

Yes, this was the age before cell phones, GPS & Google Maps. The rep even told our customer how to avoid the 🦖 known to frequent certain areas of Rte 25.

The caller thanked the rep profusely & went on his way.

And I’m sure the rep was very appreciative of the customer’s reaction & pretty proud of the outstanding service she had provided.

Ah, but not so fast there…

As it turned out (the tale of which I heard directly from Ms. Betty Hanes, Asst VP & Manager of the Smith Haven Mall Branch in Lake Grove when she called me directly on Monday morning…and kinda let me have it.

And deservedly so, I might add.)

Our customer in question followed the rep’s directions perfectly & arrived promptly at Betty’s branch.

🤗  👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻  🎉

5 minutes after it had closed for the night!

😢  👎🏼👎🏼👎🏼  💥

The customer apparently was in dire need of cash & began pounding on the flexiglas barrier, separating the ATM lobby (a 24 x 7 facility) from the actual branch itself.

He made such a racket that Ms. Hanes herself had to come out & explain that the branch had already closed for the day & that is was impossible for him to visit one of the tellers that evening.

She had to go so far as threatening to call the Police if he didn’t stop acting belligerently & banging on the barrier.

Now we have a very dissatisfied customer & a very annoyed Branch Manager.

Here’s what actually went wrong…and it was all so easily avoidable…

…had the rep only tried to “add value” instead of merely answering the customer’s request.

The customer went to the Freeport branch in the first place as it was the closest one to his home.

When he saw that the branch was closed, he picked up the auto-dialer phone next to the ATM (remember, our Citicard Banking Centers are always open & available), hoping to find the nearest open branch with teller service.

Apparently, he had never used an ATM before.

But he had his Citicard with him, it was validated (ready for use) & he had previously selected his PIN/Personal Identification Number (the code needed to use the ATM).

Had the rep PROBED THE CUSTOMER, she would have identified his REAL NEED…to get cash!

It was NOT to find a branch that was still open with teller service on that particular Friday evening!

It WAS to get cash!

She could have very easily walked him through the steps necessary to withdraw cash from the ATM, a very simple procedure, even for someone who’s never used an ATM before. She could have stayed on the phone with the customer during the entire transaction to ensure he got exactly what he needed.

He would have returned back to his home with the desired cash…without having to drive all the way across Long Island on an extremely-cold evening…without arriving there after the branch had closed & not even being able to see a teller to get his withdrawal handled…without having to cause a ruckus, upsetting the Branch Manager & having her threaten to call the Police as he was making a fool of himself!

And without Betty Hanes raking me over the proverbial coals on Monday morning.

All the rep had to do was ask, “What do you need to do at the branch, sir? Perhaps I can help you!”

Especially since “her answer to his question” necessitated him driving quite a distance on a wintry evening.



Add value & don’t just answer questions!

👋🏼   👋🏾   🤚

I see several people in our audience have some questions.

“Yes, you with the blue hair!”

“But, Mike, couldn’t Ms. Hanes have done the same exact thing for that customer when he arrived ‘too late’ at her branch? Couldn’t she have walked him through the ATM process, as long as he remembered his PIN/Personal Identification Number?”


Sometimes, discretion is the better part of valor…


As always, thank you so very much for listening!

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