Give the Gift of Personality

A bank is a bank is a bank. Usual scenario: you stand in an assembly line, moving slowly forward, inch by inch, to speak to a teller. That was me making it sound exciting. Truthfully, we never expect much other that to get what we need so we can move on to the other chores on our list.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Recently, I visited my local Bank of Montreal to make a small chip in an otherwise huge “boulder of doom” known as my student line of credit. It was routine. I’d done banking thousands of times without much impression, positive or negative. My mind was focused on daily errands and not really on the task at hand.

engaging is good customer service, ATMs are not

Try to have more personality than an ATM

Once I got to the teller, that changed. She engaged with me. Sincerely. Sure the topic was pretty generic (i.e. holiday plans) but it’s not like she knows me. She was making an effort to make my experience beyond routine. The teller made eye contact, smiled and spoke genuinely (not like it was scripted or had been repeated to everyone else). To add to this, as I was leaving, the customer service desk attendant made a point of thanking me for coming in and happy holidays. That was the parting shot: personality to go. Well played BMO.

In contrast, the Serious Coffee I visit regularly can’t seem to be bothered to engage. The last two times I’ve visited, I made some whimsical remark (I’m very funny) when buying a coffee. I got nothing. No smile. No acknowledgement. Nothing. Note to employee: even if I’m not funny (totally not true), I’m trying to engage. What a great opportunity for you to connect with your customer. No fake laughs are necessary but a little personality would be nice.


  • Hi Russ!

    I hear you about the ‘bit of personality (or lack thereof) goes a long way. I wrote a while back that it frustrates me to no end when I buy something at a store and I’m the only one who says ‘Thank You’ (are you listening Tim Horton’s?).

    Glad that the clerk at BMO was human!


    – Don

    • Thanks Don,
      It’s amazing how the littlest things (effort, not importance) stay with you. Saying “Thank You”, eye contact, a smile…all contribute to the experience.
      Any recent experience where a business actually made that effort?

  • Adrian Charlie

    I wonder if there is any kind of parallel in terms of type of job. The bank teller is more likely to be in this job for a career as opposed to the Serious Coffee barista. It does not excuse any lack of engagement. My point? Perhaps the more committed a person is to their job/company, the more likely they are to care and go the extra mile. Maybe I am reaching here.

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