Courtesy In Banking

( Originally Published 1918 )

Real human courtesy is one of the best and most active assets a bank can have. Courtesy is in a sense like credit, because it is intangible, but has all the value of money if it is of the right kind.

Not at all the formal article that usually appears where courtesy should be.

Human—the essence of it lies in that one word.

Eden Philpotts, in one of his novels, states a World-wide truth : "There was never a cricket that chirped in a hedge," he says, "that to itself was not the pivot of the universe."

Think that over, and when you have absorbed its significance, apply it in an intensified meaning to all the members of the human race. Then use it in your business—but use it from the heart, or it will not work..

Every customer of a bank has an intense interest in himself. Anything that reaches the inner seat of that interest will warm him up, will draw from him a current of appreciation and good will.

Every bank officer and employee, from the president to the doorman, should make it a first part of his duty to know his customers, not as depositors nor in a merely business way, but as self-centered human beings, every one of them with a form of mind, a character and a history (no matter how colorless) of his own.

Be honest with yourself in the way you take an interest in them. Be really interested, not merely on the surface.

Nothing betrays itself more quickly nor more unpleasantly than a false interest—one that merely seems to be sincere, but is not.

Study your customers as they come before you from day to day, or time to time. You will soon find it one of the most interesting studies in the world. You will like it. It will make your customers like you.

A teller need not come out from behind the grille to kiss a customer. But he can let the customer know that he likes or is glad to see him. His pleasant, "good morning will have a wholesome effect.

A smile with the eyes or a friendly nod will do. A passing interest in a customer's health, a good wish, an inquiry about his family if there is illness, a touch of sympathy if there is trouble, a cheery word if an account is growing, not because the bank wants the cash, but because the receiving teller is pleased to notice his prosperity; a little word of regret if the customer has had to stand in line for his turn at the window; a quiet but friendly suggestion if he knows the customer may be losing favor with the bank. These will attract business, and hold it.

Remember Names.—Make a point of knowing each customer's name and always call him by it, even if he does not show up for a few days, and then is in a hurry.

Don't be sharp with anybody, even a bore. You will waste no time by listening even to one who endeavors to bestow incoherence upon you, if you send him away with a feeling that you wanted to hear him out, but were prevented by something that had to be done at the moment. Have an understanding with your fellow-employees that will be useful and save your face in cases like that. They are rare—and even a too fluent talker has his good points. Remember these, and let him know you remember.

A Man's Strong Points.—Nothing pleases anyone more than the discovery that someone else appreciates his strong points the points on which he prides himself.

Every customer has points like that. If you honestly approve them, say so, but do not say too much. Only let him know you wish there were more men like him.

You need not go out of your way to find out what points in himself a man thinks most of. Be friendly, and he will be sure to tell you what they are.

See Everybody.—Never let a customer pass you without recognizing him. Say something even if it be no more than a weather observation; and call him by name.

Don't be afraid of making him think he is strong enough with the bank to ask favors his account would not justify. Every good banker knows how to deal with such requests, not only without offense, but in a way that makes the customer feel the banker doesn't like to say no, but has no other course.

Don't Be Cold.—It is a fact that the atmosphere of most banks is the reverse of inviting. Where an officer or employee is curt because he thinks that is the proper way to do bank business, he is chilling the customer; and no customer enjoys being chilled.

Nor does any customer, especially a new one, like the feeling that his appearance is viewed with suspicion, sometimes amounting to an impression of hostility.

The day of the old-fashioned, dignified banker—with a dignity that was not real, but official-has passed away.

The new dignity is not only in accord with real courtesy, but is heightened by it. The finest manners are those inspired by genuine interest, and are midway between aloof condescension and back-slapping familiarity.

Take down a book of Shakespeare and turn to the play of Hamlet, and read the advice Polonius gives to his son, Laertes. That speech is a compendium of worldly knowledge, world wisdom.

Let it dwell in your mind, and it will come out in your conduct.

Never permit yourself to be drawn into saying an ill thing about anyone, no matter whom. If you can't say a good word, say nothing—or change the subject.

If you will be honest with yourself, you never will pass snap judgment against any act. All you can see is the outward result of an inward spring that neither you nor anyone else ever can know.

Above all, remember that thing about the cricket in the hedge. If the truth were known, all of us are crickets.

You like to be appreciated. So do other people. Don't forget, that in this lies a strong reason for applying the Golden Rule.

To all bank employees, this: That saying about bread cast on the waters is true. Make yourselves liked. By so doing you will make the customers like the bank. The men at the very top will begin to hear things in praise of this or that employee, and take notice.

Anyone who can make himself liked well enough to be praised is worth watching; and if the watching justifies the praise, promotion and a bigger salary are not far away. It means being lifted out of what might become a rut, and put in line for a career.

Every man worth calling a man is ambitious for a career. Self interest is just as much a part of him as it is of any other man, or any cricket; and in his realization of himself, he too is of pivotal importance, like the cricket.

He is justified in making the most of his chances; and one of the best and most pleasant ways of doing that is herein pointed out.

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