I've started reading the book "Fans Not Customers" by Vernon Hill, the founder of Metro Bank UK and Commerce Bancorp in America. The basic principle is that competitive edge comes down to service and if customers become fans then they will help create yet more fans. So far, this formula has worked magnificently for Vernon, with year on year growth in the banking sector, at a time when other banks are struggling.
So I decided to visit my local Metro bank in Kingston upon Thames and what a refreshing experience it turned out to be, more on that later.
It also got me thinking about some of the other "brands" I had experienced in the last few days. Now I am a big fan of Graham Norton and I was absolutely delighted to see the live recording of his show last week with guest stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Timothy Spall, Miranda and Maroon 5. Once inside the studio the experience was a joy, the show ran like clockwork, Norton was superb, funny, extremely slick and professional. However the pre-show experience was very poor by comparison. Despite having pre-registered for tickets we still had to queue for 90 minutes and even then we were lucky to get in. We were also fortunate in that it was both warm and dry. The process can at best be compared to a poorly run raffle at a village fete. It actually included a man shouting out ticket numbers and colours in an inaudible fashion! So while I remain a "fan" of Graham Norton and a "customer" of his show, I am unlikely to recommend others go through the same experience.
So back to the Metro Bank tour that we were treated too today. All the staff were refreshingly helpful, we were greeted in a large open reception that looked more like a hotel than a branch. We were told that we could open an account within 15 minutes and that we would walk away with our debit card. We were shown the vaults, offered the free use of a meeting room and a customer toilet! I am most definitely a fan and will probably be a customer very soon.
As we walked home it started to rain and we passed what we thought was a queue of people at a bus stop. It turned out to be a queue of parents who had driven their children to an entrance exam at a top performing school. I wondered how Metro Bank would treat these potential "customers". Surely they wouldn't expect customers of their bank to queue outside in the rain.
So back to Vernon Hill who has the following core principles:-