Become an Expert in Your Business

It’s imperative that you become the foremost expert on your particular field if you want to reach your potential as a true leader.

You must be comfortable enough with your knowledge of your particular responsibility, as well as that of your company & the industry, so that you’re adept at everything you do & say, especially when dealing with your peers from around the company.

You may be in Operations or Customer Service or Risk Management or whatever, but your working knowledge of all different facets of the business is essential to make smart & well-informed business decisions.

You neither live nor work in a vacuum. To be successful in your particular specialty, you must improve your knowledge of, and familiarity with, other parts of the business. You’ll find these working relationships to be enormously-helpful opportunities to learn as well as provide you the chance to help out beyond the scope of your responsibilities.

Lemme give you a couple of examples of how this can & will come into play…

Many years ago, our Marketing Department was planning to raise the “minimum balance requirement” for “membership” in our Priority Services “club”.

Priority Services customers received various perks around the bank, e.g., unique phone # with specially-trained representatives & enhanced response time, designated account officers at branches, specific marketing offers, etc..

Marketing was planning to raise the minimum from $25,000 in acct balances to $50,000. As such, they were planning to do 2 separate mailings…one to customers with balances between $25K & $50K (to inform them of the new requirement & the need for add’l funds to meet the $50K level & thereby, retain membership) & another mailing to customers with current balances below $25K (let them know that they significantly need to increase balances for the new $50K level).

They forecasted a specific response rate & net incremental balances that we would receive as customers attempted to meet the new guidelines.

I made a proposal.

Since were doing a direct mail drop that’s generally pretty inexpensive, why don’t we also mail to the portion of the current Priority Services customer base who already have $50K or more with us in balances?

We could thank them for their current business, let them know that they already meet the new balance requirements for this exclusive membership & generally “stroke them” & make them feel valued.

I got a few raised eyebrows (“How could this Operations guy know anything about real marketing after all?”), but I had a few close allies in the room who agreed with my idea.

It received a resounding “Well, it can’t really hurt now!”

Final results from the mailing?

Over 87% of all new money received came from those customers who already met the $50K balance rule…”my customers”!

87%! I knew from all my years in servicing this customer base that they enjoy being pampered…that they’re extremely thankful when they receive exceptional
treatment…and that they like to feel special.

That was the whole purpose of my proposal…you already have a base that’s extremely satisfied & they’ll be willing to trust us with more of their business.

And you know damned well that if they had at least $50K in our bank, they most probably had more funds elsewhere!

They did & the marketing campaign (originally designed to convey a new balance requirement that, for most customers, could actually be “bad news”) turned into a resounding success!

Another example of using my knowledge gained over the years involved the introduction of “check imaging” to our Consumer customer base.

Citi would no longer return the actual, paid cancelled checks themselves with the monthly statement, but instead, include additional pages containing 8 digitized images, front & back, of every paid item.

This actually represented a major service improvement for our customers as it would help simplify record-keeping by having a few sheets of paper vs. all these separate checks all over the place.

There is really no need whatsoever to have the original checks themselves as these digital images served as official payment records, even for the IRS.

Marketing drew up this massive plan where they would mail letters to the customer base, asking for their approval for the conversion to check imaging.

They forecasted an initial acceptance rate of ~40% in year 1, with future mailing planned each year thereafter for another 4 years until we got as close to 100% as they hoped.

“No way!”, I protested. “That’s gonna be a horror to manage & it’ll take us 5 years to get where we need to be to take full advantage of the forecasted expense saves!” (Note: It’s much easier to print a few pages at statement time than to end the entire month collecting & sorting checks as they’re being paid & then putting them into the same envelope as the statement.)

“Here’s what I suggest we do. We don’t ask for permission since we really don’t need it to proceed & merely do a “negative-option” mailing.”

With a negative option mailing, you inform the customer of the change(s) you’re gonna make and allow them the opportunity to write back & refuse it.

“I guarantee you we’ll get the overwhelming majority of our customers to agree to it, or, at least, not reject it!”

Marketing actually readily agreed & we did the negative-option mailing.

Less than 1% of the customer base refused the change!!! They originally forecasted 40% accepting the change…in reality, less than 1% rejected it!

We also kept communicating with our customers about the upcoming change (the mailing took place in Month 1 while actual implementation was scheduled for Month 4). We included inserts with our statements & placed special alerts on the statement themselves.

When we finally implemented in Month 4, we did receive customer feedback (as I fully knew most people wouldn’t read the letters anyway), but our people did a great job handling any issues. We had thoroughly trained them & provided job aids that would easily address any customer concern.

Worse comes to worse, if the customer was adamant, we would be able to switch them back to “actual check return”.

All in all, only 1.2% continued to receive “check return” instead of check imaging! The program was a resounding success!

A few years later, we assigned a fee for “check return” that convinced most of that 1.2% to now accept check imaging. Finally, we simply eliminated check return altogether & there was minimal customer dissatisfaction. Check imaging really was the best thing for both the bank AND the customer, so I always felt extremely comfortable with our approach to concerting our customers.

It’s kinda like giving needed medicine to your kids.

If they never realize it, great!

If they do & protest, maybe you’ll wait a few minutes…but they’re gonna take it as it’s really the best thing for them.

See? You can do similar stuff at your place of business when you become an expert in not only your specific discipline, but in how other parts of the business…and your customers…operate!

Thanks for listening.

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