The Advantage Letter by Dave Martin
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Friday, May 01, 2015
Volume 20 | # 479
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"You don't lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case." » Ken Kesey

Attention Deficit

Attention Deficit

A recent column on Newsweek.com by Kevin Maney had me reflecting on a subject I’ve read, written, and spoken about for years.  A few years ago, I began believing and suggesting that customers’ attention was quickly becoming the most “endangered resource” in business.  

My point then was that the internet and the increasing number of methods we have for accessing it had us swimming in a sea of advertising.  Between TV, radio, print ads, digital signage, and outdoor advertising, it wasn’t like we weren’t being bombarded before. 

But the internet exponentially increases the competition for our attention.

Mr. Maney’s column, entitled, “Think Fast: Smartwatch Slices Thought into Eight-Second Bursts,” discusses the concerns some have that smartwatches will accelerate the decline of our attention spans. 

Data from the National Center for Biotechnology Information suggests that the average American’s attention span has gone from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to about 8 seconds today.  

It’s a little disconcerting when you consider that goldfish have 9-second attention spans.  (But they don’t use smartphones, so…unfair comparison.)  

But it was Maney’s predictions about the future of face-to-face meetings that had me Amen- and-Hallelujah(ing). 

He suggests, “…the value of face-to-face meetings will only rocket. It won’t matter how good Skype and Google Hangouts get for video conversations. Meeting live is a serious investment of time and focus, and it will make more of an impression in this new age than it did in any old one.”  

Whenever pundits screech about the always-on-the-horizon shuttering of most branches, I find myself thinking similar thoughts.  Human contact and face-to-face interactions mean more to the banking industry going forward than ever before. 

In an industry with increasingly uniform and commoditized features and pricing, our people are more and more becoming the human interface of online operations.  

Total visits to bank branches will indeed drop as basic transactions are no longer carried out there.  But the visits that do occur will have far more impact on which institutions customers choose to move to or stay with. 

In our increasingly ADD world, few things stand out more in a person’s week than face-to-face chats with friendly, helpful and competent folks.  

How many chats will you initiate today?

"Branch Manager" Wisdom

We have a long-running joke in my home that it is cheaper if I’m not around whenever we are paying a contractor “by the hour.”  I have a tendency to get into lengthy conversations with folks about the jobs they are doing. 

I’m not the kind of guy who stands over folks’ shoulders “supervising” their work.  I’m just frequently fascinated by observing people who have become so skilled at their jobs that it becomes (in my eyes anyway) an art form. 

The crew that we’ve now hired twice to trim the 6 oak trees that surround our home impress me. It’s like a combination of tree maintenance and Cirque Du Soleil. 

This crew climbs trees and hangs from ropes and swing from branch to branch… while operating chainsaws.  

It had been almost 4 years since we last had our trees trimmed, and I couldn’t remember the name of the company.  Luckily, we’ve written less than 100 checks during that period, and I was able to find the owner’s last name. 

Using a Google search, I was able to find and hire him and his crew again.

As we reconnected, I recalled to him a story he told me years ago about his first job in the US.  He worked on a roofing crew and was terrified the entire time.  It was hysterical to me that he chose tree climbing as a less stressful occupation. 

He laughed that I remembered that story and explained that he trusts “God’s trees” more than some of the steep angles of man’s roofs.  

Something else that impressed me was that I recognized many of the guys on his crew from 4 years before. This type of work is very strenuous and dangerous, even for folks who know what they’re doing. 

I’d imagine normal turnover has to be high.

I commented to him that I was impressed he still had many of the same guys.  He thanked me for the compliment and I joked, “You must pay them a lot.” 

He smiled and said, “I pay what other guys (tree services) pay.  But I’m fair.  When we do a good job and get more business, they make more money.  And if a guy is lazy or undependable or dangerous, we get rid of him fast.  When you treat the guys on your crew fairly, the good ones stay.”  

I smiled and told him I’d borrow that line.  When you treat your crew fairly, the good ones stay. 

Whether you’re managing “branch crews” that swing from ropes with chainsaws or ones that shake hands and kiss babies… that’s pretty sound advice.


"Don't brood. Get on with living and loving. You don't have forever." » Leo Buscaglia

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Dave Martin has become one of the most prolific writers in the banking industry. His columns and newsletters are read in thousands of financial institutions each month. His keynote presentations, seminars, and podcasts have an authenticity and humor that brings teams of all sizes and seniority levels together.

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