My bank rang me the other day asking me if I had time to answer a few questions on their level of customer service.  I normally shy away from these sort of phone calls with all the usual excuses; don’t like being rung up out of the blue, too busy, hate being interrupted in what I’m already doing, nothing really to say as its all fine or not sure how to politely word the vitriol that I would like to deliver. I’m sure you’ve been there many times.

But the cheery Scottish girl who rang that particular morning obviously timed it just right. I had just sat down with a cup of tea, wondering what to do next and yes, I did want to provide some feedback because to be honest they had been a bit crap.

For the 6 years we have been in business, we have always used a combination of telephone and subsequently on line banking with a distant entity of the bank in question that simply processes the bits it needs to process and leaves us alone.  My reasons for choosing this option were twofold.  Firstly I didn’t want to borrow any money.  I was setting myself up as a self employed independent practitioner and what growth came would do so organically and without large injections of someone else’s cash.  Secondly, I had spent a large portion of the previous two years managing the occupational health service for one of the other big four and didn’t like what I saw.   Every customer entry into the branch was seen as a sales opportunity.  Every paying in of a cheque was met with a question about whether you wanted to review your mortgage, take out a loan, speak to a business adviser, review your pension or sometimes all of them.  I swear on one of my trips behind the counter I witnessed more than one customer run screaming out of the branch saying “leave me alone, all I wanted to do was draw out £20 to put in my Grandson’s birthday card”.  I also noticed that the staff asking these questions didn’t really want to ask them. Not all the time anyway.  Their role had changed from friendly faced customer adviser and all round good egg to nasty sales rep with a target to meet.  I didn’t fancy any of that and subsequently chose a different bank and stayed as far away from the branch and the business advisers as possible.

But things change, and recently we’ve had good reason to move away from the distant entity to a branch over the road.  And what a bollocks they’ve made of it. They were very keen to tell me they could do this, that and everything else, most of which was about making money for them and ensuring the respective bonuses were met. But the reality of the service has been very different.  This got me thinking about selling and social media.  There are far better experts than me in the twittersphere and beyond but one thing is now pretty obvious.  You don’t sell much on social media by selling.  You sell by giving and gently marketing yourself into a person or brand that someone wants to engage with.  Banks take note. Reign in your obsessive bonus driven sales culture and start engaging with us.  Provide us lots of information that we might like – for the sake of providing it and not just because you want to sell it to us. We know you do really but you need to play the game rather better than you are at present.  Then we might start to like you a bit more.