In the Bay Area, do you know how to contact your bank or credit union’s complaint department if you have a problem? With banks and credit unions of all sizes, finding the right person to speak with, and one who has the authority to resolve your problem, can be very elusive. This is frequently the case not only with banks, but also with large nationwide businesses, where accountability and access to decision makers requires persistence, determination and a steely resolve. At First National Bank of Northern California, the author, the CEO of the bank, is the Complaint Department. No business or bank is perfect; with three branches in San Francisco and nine in San Mateo County, there will always be problems that pop up from time to time with a product, service or communication. Companies that stand out make it easy for their customers to contact a decision maker to have their problem heard, addressed, and, if possible, rectified.
At First National Bank of Northern California, the CEO’s name, direct phone number and direct e-mail address are listed on the bank’s home page, www.fnbnorcal.com. This makes it easy for someone with an issue to contact the Chief Executive Officer. Not commonly found in other local banks. This access is not intended to neglect or bypass the existing lines of authority within the bank’s management. It can be seen as a safety net should someone feel they have not been heard or their issue hasn’t been fully addressed. Customers feeling this way will often close their accounts and simply move on to another financial institution. To First National Bank of Northern California, that is unacceptable. It is essential to determine if the person with the problem has contacted the appropriate employees within the organization. These employees are empowered to make decisions and address problems. So if a customer has gone through all the appropriate channels and still is not satisfied, the CEO is the stop gap. All phone calls and e-mails are guaranteed to be returned and discussed, but no guarantee or promise is made to resolve every matter to the customer’s exact specifications. That would be a foolish proposition. The true benefit of having access to the “boss” was illustrated daily to the author as a youngster working in his father’s drug store; McGraw Brothers Pharmacy in Daly City, California. Customers frequently wanted to talk to the owner and Pharmacist, Elton A. McGraw. He religiously made time for each and every one of his customers, no matter how much time was involved. That lesson in listening empathetically and doing what he could to help resolve a problem was an incredibly valuable lesson in business. Your customers are your most important people. If you make the time to listen to their concerns and help identify possible solutions, you go a long way to increasing customer loyalty. Of course, one can’t solve every problem, but at the very least, the customer can hear from you directly why you can’t fulfill his or her expectations. This is not rocket science by any means, but keeping that communication channel open for your customers every single day is a distinct advantage over competitors who don’t. If you have a problem with your financial institution, do you know who to contact?