Where Does It Hurt?

By Antonio Garrido

Confidence in banks has reached 32%, up 5% in the last year alone, according to the latest annual report from Gallup measuring “Confidence in Institutions.” This means that 32% of people surveyed reported that they have either “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in banks. The report issued in June this year is especially welcomed when you consider that it shows a significant increase (11 points) from the record low notched in 2012.

The question is, therefore, how should financial service and banking staff at the coalface capitalize on this new level of consumer confidence and trust, and how might they demonstrate their value to them? And how do marketers help the staff that interacts directly with prospects and customers convey this value?

The answer lies in asking good questions.

Imagine walking into the doctor’s office with a sore elbow. And imagine that, having made it into the exam room, you are greeted as follows:

“And, what might be the problem today?”

“It’s my elbow, Doctor, it really hurts.”

“Elbow, eh? Tricky things, elbows. I’ve never really been very good at elbows. How’s your knee? I’m much better with knees.”

“Um, no. It’s my elbow.”

“Right, right, of course, elbow! Let me see.” The doctor gets out a thick medical textbook, searches under “E” for elbow, and starts studying the diagram intently. “Tell you what. Rub some of this cream on it three times a day. If it feels no better in a week, come back again for a closer look. Tell me, how’s your family?”

I’m guessing that your level of confidence in the doctor is pretty low right about now. Not exactly the consultation you were hoping for. The doctor didn’t seem knowledgeable, nurturing, caring, or expert. All in all, the doctor seemed rather uninterested in your elbow’s health and wellbeing. What would happen to your level of confidence in the medical profession as a whole?

How about this as an alternative scenario – let’s imagine that the exchange after the pleasantries went as follows…

“OK, so how about this. Let me start by asking you a few questions, getting a little history, and seeing if I can figure out what’s going on. I’ll then take a look at the elbow. I’ll be as gentle as I can. I’ll then maybe ask a few more questions, and we can take it from there. Is that fair?”

“Of course.”

The doctor then asks one or more of the following questions, which is entirely consistent with the image and understanding of an expert in the field. With each question and answer, your confidence in the doctor grows and grows.

“When did the problem start?” (Always a good opening gambit.)

“Is it swollen?”

“Where up your arm does the pain start/stop?”

“Do your fingers tingle?”

…and so on, and so forth.

By the time the doctor orders an X-ray, suggests a cream, or puts your arm in a splint, you’re wondering who else at the tennis club might benefit from this level of professionalism.

Why? Because the doctor asked smart questions—questions that were entirely pertinent; salient to the answers to prior questions; designed to gain a full understanding of the situation; and demonstrated skill, knowledge, and experience.

In order to come across as knowledgeable, understanding, and adding value, asking good questions is key in all industries, particularly banking. The marketing department has a responsibility to ask all of the individuals from product development, to sales and customer services how they can help the prospective customers with their “pain,” and then deliver solutions to address them.

The marketing triangle explains that the External Marketing department sets the promise, the Internal Marketing team enables the promise, and the Interactive Marketing team (customer service and sales staff) deliver the promise.

The first job of the marketer, therefore, is to ask questions to try to figure out:

  • What clients, customers, prospects (and those who interact with them) know
  • Exactly what pain to alleviate
  • What “promise” to deliver
  • How to deliver it

With customer confidence in banks continuing to rise—now, more than ever—marketers have a responsibility to ensure that their particular brand remains relevant, and continues to address the current and future needs of their internal and external customers. No one wants to see confidence in the sector take a downturn. The best time to fix your roof, according to JFK, is when the sun is shining. Marketers need to become the consultant specialist right away, they need to learn to ask many more smart questions, and prescribe exactly the right treatment for their customers.

Author and leadership coach Antonio Garrido teaches executives how to get to the truth by asking better questions. His new book is Asking Questions The Sandler Way. LinkedIn.