Confession. I’m a BofA customer.

I know, I know…. but c’mon, don’t be a hater.

I’ve been with them a long fourteen years and at this point, it’s just too sticky. Early on, I needed nationwide ATM access. Plus it was handy to tell my credit union and community bank clients that I had to do my banking… “neutral”. It was a safe bet that I wouldn’t be consulting with BofA in the foreseeable future. And if I ever did, I guess I would have to bank "off shore" or something. Whatever that means.

I find myself needing to visit our safe deposit box on a frequent basis and that takes me into the branch (hmm… isn’t it interesting how safe deposit box access is diminishing). Today, I was greeted by a pleasant concierge, which in of itself is not a new thing, but she asked to see my debit card. Then she swiped it. In seconds she was looking at my entire relationship with the bank.

Theresa then calls me by name and wants to know how she can help me today. She summons Marla, who walks me over to the boxes. Along the way, Marla raves about the new mobile app and wants to make sure I am using it. Did I see the new check deposit feature? If not, she’d be happy to demo it for me. That’s a channel agnostic point-of-view if I’ve ever heard one, right?

Mission accomplished and I’m leaving the vault and there’s Richard to greet me. He just wanted me to know that he was the permanent on-site Merrill Lynch representative and that my status with the bank allows for a free consult. I passed, but enjoyed a quick banter, as he was nice enough.

On my way out, Theresa makes sure all my needs have been taken care of and she let me know that my current home equity line of credit has just a couple of years left before it needs to be renewed. She was fishing, but she still found a way to bait me with a relevant and helpful factoid. Smart.

It was a most pleasant experience. Why? Because they addressed me by name, knew enough about my situation and were not pushy about trying to dial it up. That’s engagement, folks! And before everyone starts to write me and tell me that’s what they do in their branches... I’m not talking about really knowing me. I’m talking about using technology to shape the experience into a differentiated personal engagement. Just like I find in the airline clubs, Apple stores and at the hotel check-in desks. I don’t want or expect these brands to know me, just respect me.

Debit card swiping seems almost antiquated. Think RFID chips, smartphones, biometrics and other Matrix-inspired technology. Think how this quick check-in step becomes the key to the whole in-branch experience.

The rush is on to transform branches from a transaction channel into a relationship channel. Conversations are the goal and having knowledge about the person standing before you becomes the starter.

I’m looking forward to my next interaction with Theresa, Marla and Richard. Or Debi, Carlos and Alisha. It won’t matter that I don’t know them, they’ll know me.

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