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Teller Excellence ... To be or not to be
by Honey Shelton, InterAction Training Systems

An area of the bank that can cause a great deal of frustration is the teller line. Wish they would act more enthusiastic and friendly? Took more initiative and had fewer errors? Do you find you get a good one only to have them leave within 6 months or a year? Feel as though you have shown them and told them how important it is to make referrals and cross-sell and yet nothing changes? Are you plagued with outages and costly errors? How do you reduce the frustration and increase the quality? Ready for some answers?

Confronting the Tough
Teller Stuff

On Sale Now
Presented by Honey Shelton

Put an end to whining, complaining, gossip, turnover and indifference and tune-in to a program that understands problems and offers real solutions. You will learn how to become a change agent. You will learn how to hold tellers accountable. You will learn how to encourage excellent customer service. You will learn how to make the most of what you have. You will learn how to stop procrastination…yours and theirs. You will learn how to stop outages and implement goal performance management.

It may be time for your bank to audit the value of the teller position. Often it's said, "The teller is the most important job in the bank?" Maybe. Maybe not. It just depends on what gauge you are using. If you were to use a gauge associated with visibility and customer contact volume the needle on the gauge would swing toward high importance. If the gauge was reading internal value it's highly possible the needle would barely make a move.

Often the only things measured or tracked regarding a teller are outages, attendance and errors. And, those responsibilities definitely warrant tracking. Most banks track teller turnover. Many claim they want to do something about the turnover issue. Some banks report you can't keep a good teller and you can't get rid of a bad one.

If you are ready to insist on teller excellence you may be ready to make some serious changes on how you regard and reward the tellers.

At National Bank of Gatesville the teller is indoctrinated and trained with the full understanding that sales and extraordinary service delivery is every bit as critical to the teller's success as balancing. Any one of the 55 tellers at National Bank has an opportunity to earn up to $2400 a year in outstanding performance bonuses. There isn't a cap on sales incentives tellers can earn.

"I feel the teller position has become one of the most important positions in the bank. I see where tellers at our branches are the bank to a large percentage of our customers," says Brian Townley, Vice President & Cashier. "The responsibilities of the teller have become much greater in the last five years and we have responded to that with accountability, training and incentives."

Townley says that bankers who say that the standard teller position is on its way out might need a reality check. "We have already done away with the standard teller position. If a bank hasn't reshaped the teller position and raised expectations and incentives for the teller they are behind the times. Our tellers make a significant contribution to our success."

It's expensive to recruit, train and develop a new teller. Done right it takes several weeks. Cut the turnover costs and invest in your teller line. Invest in hiring right, training well, developing high standards and reward systems that invigorate your staff. Elevate your expectations, demand top-notch service delivery and teach the teller the importance of maximizing sales opportunities.

There's no question that in today's fast track world a growing number of customers prefer electronic banking opportunities rather than the traditional lobby or drive-thru teller window. The future forecast indicates more and more customers will find favor with PC banking and debit card usage is certainly on the rise. What does all that mean for the teller position?

It certainly doesn't lessen its importance. Frankly it increases the importance. Every time a customer walks in, calls or opts to use the drive-thru consider it a knock on the door of opportunity. Competition for deposits has bankers scrambling to find ways to grow deposits and increase profitability. Often the teller position can be a hotbed of referrals and sales. The teller makes contact everyday with countless opportunities.
  • Remind the customer what services are available.
  • Reinforce the image the bank wants projected.
  • Save a relationship when the customer is dissatisfied
  • Ask for more business or solicit a referral
  • Resolve a complaint by cross-selling a product
  • Thank customers for their loyalty
  • Refer customers to a profit center
In times of narrow profit margins the teller area has undergone increased scrutiny. Bankers are often well versed on the cost associated with the teller line but wear blindfolds about the real value of the teller line.

Financial institutions put a lot of thought and effort into the products and services they offer in hopes of attracting long-term depositors and substantial deposits. The same thought and effort needs to be focused on obtaining buy-in and results from the tellers who are in a prime place to sell those products and services.

A bank who strives to establish a standard of excellence on the teller line will need to install methods to hold the teller accountable in all aspects of the job. Account holders are greatly affected by the way a teller handles everyday deposits and withdrawals. A teller's work habits also affect customer satisfaction with the institution, as well as the teller's own job satisfaction. Handling transactions efficiently and accurately ensures long-term customer relationships that benefit the account holder, the institution, and the teller. Traditionally more attention is paid to an outage or a returned item than is ever paid to a teller who excels at the job.

Mystery shops are essential to validating that customer service standards are being met. Customer surveys and focus studies are additional methods for being vigilant that the bank is monitoring to see if the teller line is on their toes about using the customer's name and behaving friendly. Well-trained and self motivated tellers can have a significant impact on the image of the bank as well as the bottom line. Increase the value of the teller and demand the teller become more valuable.

Today's teller must know services available to the account holder and be aware of specific laws and regulations applicable to those services. In addition to technical knowledge, the teller must present a professional image to the customer, dress appropriately, have a pleasant speaking voice, and represent the institution in a manner that assures customers' transactions are processed promptly and accurately.

It is important to respond quickly, efficiently and courteously to customers. Their perceptions of the institution are based on the attitude and personality of the person in the teller window.

Customer service is the primary responsibility of the teller department. Long lines and lengthy waits evoke the most customer complaints.

The teller must be familiar with the numerous forms and documents required to serve a customer effectively. The professional teller is also familiar with the important features of services offered by the institution, including service charges, current fee schedules, interest rates, types of accounts offered, and other information regarding the maintenance and servicing of accounts. Answering customers' simple questions and directing them to the proper department for more complex inquiries is the mark of a professional teller.

However, the most important role of the teller shall always be "customer service." This service must fulfill the customer's needs and also protect the institution from loss due to fraud or error. Operating within the established procedures of the financial institution, the teller politely develops a clear understanding of questionable transactions without offending the customer. Most transactions require positive identification, but sometimes a customer balks, feeling perhaps his integrity is questioned or that the teller should already know him. A professional teller should be able to handle this type of situation leaving both themselves and their customer happy with the resolution.

Some bankers say they resist incentives or outstanding performance bonuses because it is simply a part of the teller's job to sell, know the information required and manage the teller window. Base pay for a teller is usually the lowest rung on the payroll ladder. If you want to have tellers who put on an outstanding performance you must train them, hold them accountable and reward them.

In addition to the customer relations obligations of the teller there are regulatory concerns. Tellers must also be familiar with a number of regulations. CRA, Reg CC., Bank Secrecy Act, Fair Lending, just to name a few. Anything short of strict adherence to these regulations can lead to serious consequences for both the financial institution and the teller.

Tellers are generally responsible for providing negotiable instruments (cashiers checks, money orders, and traveler's cheques), accepting payments (for loans and taxes), and other services, such as redeeming U.S. Saving Bonds and processing VISA and MasterCard cash advances. Collection tellers are responsible for sending and receiving collection letters while adhering to the regulations and policies necessary for compliance.

The more the teller knows about meeting the financial needs of the customer, the better the teller will be able to answer customers' questions and provide the services they need.

A close relationship frequently exists between a financial institution and its depositors. After all, many times the institution is custodian of all or most of the account holder's worldly goods! The banking business does not thrive on transient trade. The best relationship for both institution and depositor is long-term. Confidentiality ranks high among long-term account holders' expectations. The financial institution employee who maintains a relationship with a depositor is usually well aware of the account holder's financial or even personal situations. Carelessly mentioning a depositor's business or circumstance can mean the loss of customer confidence, lost deposits, or worse, liability for the institution. Thus, the conscientious teller considers confidentiality a sacred trust.

Respect for the fiduciary relationship between institution and account holder is foremost in tellers striving for professional excellence. They perform vital services with the greatest possible competence and avoid any action that jeopardizes the well being of either the account holder or the financial institution.

Give up the complaining about immaturity or lack of performance on your teller line. Employ tellers who can see that the position is valued, monitored and well rewarded. Insist you get what you pay for and pay for outstanding performance. Don't ignore mediocrity. Do reward excellence.

Teller excellence. To be or not to be at your bank? Now may be the time to elevate the teller position. Take it to the level warranted considering the responsibilities and opportunities that await your tellers every day. It may not be the most important job in your bank but it will run a close second consistently to any other position in your bank. It's the bank's job to prove the position is invaluable; it's the teller's job to become invaluable to the bank. The payoff and the accountability must be there for both.

Honey Shelton's depth of knowledge, enthusiasm, and compelling personality are the driving forces behind InterAction Training Systems, Inc. (ITS). As president of this leading seminar provider, Honey uses her talents in motivating professionals to reach their full potential. She and her hand-picked team of dynamic training consultants impart insight across the United States and Europe. More than a quarter-million professionals have honed their skills through the ITS fast-paced, highly-informative, and entertaining seminars.

Shelton began her career in the banking industry. Prior to founding ITS, she served as Vice President of Marketing and an Executive Committee member for a major holding company bank in The Woodlands, Texas. During her 15 years in banking, Honey began developing a passion for training others to succeed. Since forming ITS, numerous corporations confidently consult with Honey for training, public relations, teamwork, effective communication, marketing, and quality improvement.

As a graduate of the School of Bank Marketing from the University of Colorado, she realizes the value of quality education. Honey invests time as a faculty member for banking schools around the country. She is a repeat presenter for most of the state banking associations and has a full calendar providing in-house training for an impressive list of clients. In addition to banking, Honey has extensive experience with a wide variety of industries ranging from health care, oil/gas, telecommunications and manufacturing.

In 1998, Honey began executive and life coaching practice. Her coaching consultations with individuals and teams focus on building and refining skills necessary to identify and sustain success with integrity. Shelton encourages them to turn dreams into goals and intentions into strategies that will strengthen relationships and enhance accomplishments.

Honey continues in her own personal pursuit of excellence. She has obtained certification in both Reality Therapy from the William Glasser Institute and the Training and Development Certification Program at Texas A & M.

First published on 5/10/04

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