Is RBC the Mary Poppins bank?
Yours truly took a day off recently. This is what it looked like:
1. Spa appointment (damn you, laser!)
2. Peppermint tea at Starbucks to soothe my sore throat (damn you, cold and flu season!)
3. Get hair styled by my personal scissored wizard for the last 3 years, the fabulous Marco Verelli at Salon M Squared (damn you, bridal party hairstylist who chopped my hair into ugly chunks when all I asked you to do was trim the split-ends!)
5. Soy chai latte and pulled pork sandwich at Atelier Cafe, my daytime hangout of choice, preferred as much for its swanky chill vibe as for its delicious menu options (damn you for not having the pulled pork on your menu anymore!)
Wait a second, all those years of fine-tuning my procrastination skills in university and I can’t even figure out how to kill a little time?
Ooh I know, I’ve paid off my student loans (thank you, thank you), I’ll go apply for a line of credit! Hey look, a bank right around the corner from my condo…
[1 hour later]
Gee thanks, Transunion, for not updating the status of my student loan since LAST YEAR and effectively giving me a stupidly high interest rate. It seems that the credit line will have to wait until some calls are made. And yet, this was not the source of dissatisfaction from my visit to the bank.
Before going in that afternoon, I had talked to several friends and colleagues about their current banking services and who the banked with, but none had ever really had an exceptionally good experience with any bank that was worth noting. In fact, one colleague had separate services with 4 different banks, and his exact words were “they’re all the same, just pick one.” To date most of my day-to-day banking had been done through PC Financial so I had never really had a financial advisor that I could go in and speak to (without being an aisle away from the deli & seafood counter at my local Superstore grocer – seriously PC? Time to up the look a bit. At least put doors on your banking pavilions so I don’t have to smell an inelegant mix of salmon and honey-glazed ham).
So given that I live in the heart of King West, I figured any bank in the area would be able to provide a welcoming and friendly experience, and hey, if they were good to me it would be extremely likely that I’d move all my banking services over, so it’s in their best interest to maintain an atmosphere that would retain current customers while attracting new ones. And so I settled on the RBC at King and Spadina, just steps from my home. With all their recent ads, I thought maybe they’d come a long way since the days of cast iron grates on the teller windows à la Mary Poppins era.
Well, perhaps my expectations were too high. I walked into a room pouring with fluorescent lighting (always lovely). The young lady sitting at the front desk was extremely cheery when she welcomed me as I came in the door, immediately adding back the points lost on poor lighting. And then:
“How can we help you today?”
-I told her.
“Okay let me see who’s free.”
“Well you’re really lucky, one of our account managers is available.”
-Great, glad to know that I’ve fit into your schedule.
“So you can wait for her and she’ll come out and get you.”
-So I’ll just wait until I’m formally summoned to her majesty’s presence. Whatever happened to ‘please have a seat, and she’ll be out in just a minute to talk to you.’? Why didn’t she just ask me to take a number while she was at it?
The girl’s desk was really super high, and she was tall, so picture this ginormous woman towering over you and growling down at you as she said all of this. In reality, the desk was only about counter-top height and she was probably quite pleasant, but that’s how I remember it going down.
Either way, she was being nice-ish, so I sucked it up and took a seat in the chairs… Ugh, not pretty. I think IKEA Poang chairs would have been nicer than these things. Seriously, put these things on Wall Street and I guarantee that nobody would want to occupy it! Oh, and they hadn’t been realigned in ages, so there wasn’t a right angle in sight. Not a big deal really, but the receptionist sits directly across from the waiting area… Hadn’t she thought to re-arrange them? Luckily I was only waiting a short time when the account manager walked out.
“Hi, you’re here to discuss a line of credit?”
“I’m Blahblah.” [obligatory hand shake]
-Nice to meet you, I’m — oh, I see you’ve already turned around and started walking. Alright, fine then. I’m gonna forget your name too. *grumbling inaudibly to self*
Hmm, this back hall that I’m being lead through is alarmingly narrow and dark, a bit intimidating for clients, no? Wait now, don’t judge just yet… Oh, hey look, another account manager sitting in his office alone and not with a client. It seems that I’m not “lucky” someone was free after all. Maybe they’re just trying to manage expectations by giving the appearance of scarcity? Right. #backfire
Oh, look, your office is decoratively barren save for a box of Kleenex, a couple of post-it notes and your coat hung beside the door. And of course you didn’t offer to hang up my coat. No, no, that hanger is only for you.
Partway through the application process I start feeling uncomfortable at the awkward silence, only punctuated by brief questions about employment/living situation/etcetera:
-See previous response, genius.
I ask her how long she’s been doing her job. “A little while now, I finished my training last year.” And you still haven’t nested? Gosh, I hope your boss knows you’re a flight risk. Or a secret agent who just keeps her profile low, no family pictures, nothing you’d miss if it got left behind in a hurry, nothing you can’t pack up into your briefcase on the way out…
This is going really well.
Things ended with her recommending I talk to my current bank about my credit options since I have more of a history with them, blah blah blah.
Here is how it should have gone down: I walk in and after I explain to the cheery receptionist why I’m here, she offers me a seat while she goes to see who is available. The seating area, rather than some cheap, very used single-seaters interspersed with some laminate-finished coffee tables holding decrepit magazines older than those in most doctors’ waiting rooms, is instead a swanky and comfortable seating area marked with a rug rather than coldly floating off to the side of the queue on the stark beige tiled floor, maybe with a tv or even a tablet PC mounted to the chair arm with time killer apps such as games, news headlines or funny comics (à la Scandinavian Airlines Time Killer App). Hell, this could be a station where people try out the bank’s personal banking app! And maybe throw in a some cushions and some plant-life as a centerpiece on the coffee table (a potted orchid or a miniature manicured shrub are classy, allergen-free options).
When the receptionist returns to tell me the account manager will be a moment, she offers me a drink of water or coffee from the mini coffee bar just beside her desk. The girl needs to be doing something other than just sitting aimlessly at her giant laminate desk that is honestly too large for someone who doesn’t do much more than a Walmart greeter… at least those people hand out stickers!
When the account manager comes out to greet me, maybe she actually gives a damn what my name is. The back hallway of offices doesn’t look like a back hallway, it is well lit and wide enough for the account manager to walk beside me rather than ahead of me the whole time. This way I don’t feel like a child being led to the principal’s office for misbehaviour on the playground.
Considering this woman has been here a year already and hasn’t personalized her workspace, perhaps for the comfort of both her and her clients (and her fellow financial advisors) she should be given a day to decorate her office. In fact, shortly after they begin working there all employees should be given a half-day to do so before their souls wither away and they become accustomed to a sterile workspace. At least have them bring in a nice floor lamp.
Now, most importantly, I wish the account manager had spent some time getting to know me at the onset. Ask me about why I’ve decided to look into a line of credit and then a mortgage in 1-2 years. Don’t wait for me to ask the question “will this affect my chances of getting a mortgage positively, negatively or not at all?” And for goodness sake, if I’ve mentioned to you that I paid off my student loan in June, don’t pull up my list of current liabilities and say “oh, you had a student loan.” Uh, yeah, I just told you that a minute ago, sunshine.
Wouldn’t it be nice to create a friendly and inviting banking experience, RBC? I truly believe that a suggestions box would yield plenty of great ideas on how to make your clientele feel more at ease in your establishment. But of course, it would be up to you to take that first step.
My friend had read this post and told me that maybe, just maybe, my blue sky banking scenario was a wee bit over the top. Begrudgingly, I set this post aside as a draft.
Recently though, said friend and I were walking by the TD Bank at Queen & Spadina. Lo and behold they have a spacious and comfortable lounge area, complete with coffee machine. Throw in a few of the extra bits et voilà! A memorable banking experience for your clientele.