Order Taker vs. Practitioner

Are you an order taker?

Guest Blog by Chris Caldwell, Mutual Bank, Muncie, Indiana

chris caldwell bank sales


When we go to McDonalds and order one of their meals, we know what we are getting; we understand that it will be the same meal we’d get if we were in Florida, Michigan, or Indiana. While we also know that it may not be healthy (or for that matter very good) we know what we’re getting. We also know that the person behind the counter isn’t doing anything but taking our order.

So what? Too many times it feels like we do the same thing in banking. We expect that the customer knows what features are in a checking account, we make an assumption about what they are going to do with the account, and we prescribe something to them before ever really analyzing their needs.

Often we get calls from clients suggesting that they need a line of credit. Yet, if we dig deeper, we find that their financial needs are much more complex. We need to serve as an advisor to them and help them realign their balance sheet to reflect the proper asset liability mix. The customer heard someone tell him that his company needs a line of credit. But we have to analyze the company’s needs to find the best solution.

In a prior life I had a boss who routinely threatened us within an inch of our lives if we quoted a rate within the first 30 seconds of a call from a client. It wasn’t because we were incompetent or didn’t know how to read a rate sheet, it was because we truly hadn’t diagnosed the client’s need before we rattled off a rate (by the way, I’m not advocating beating anyone!).

While the tactics certainly weren’t helpful, the advice was. If we become order takers, we don’t really provide the value or service that our clients deserve and can’t really demand that they pay us for something besides their order. (The other thing that I’m advocating here is that we begin to get paid what we deserve for the service we provide. We should be proud that we are good bankers who do a good job of diagnosing the problem and get compensated accordingly.)

Think of it this way. If you tell your doctor that you have strep throat (because your throat is sore after all) and the doctor prescribes medicine for strep, then in essence you have someone who is guiltily of malpractice. He didn’t diagnose you, he didn’t even really examine your needs; he merely listened to your semi-informed (or likely uninformed) self-diagnosis and prescribed something for you that may or may not treat your problem.

If we allow our clients to inform us of their needs (whether they really know or only assume they know), and if we don’t truly diagnose their problems and then prescribe something that may or may not address their financial issues, we are guilty of financial malpractice.

Now I know that some will tell me that it is easier in commercial lending to do this than it is in retail or mortgage lending given all the compliance issues. I get that. But we still have to stop, listen, ask, listen some more, and then prescribe based on a thorough understanding of the issues and needs, not based on a client’s uninformed diagnosis of his or her financial needs.

Agree or disagree? Please share your advice, insights, and experiences in the COMMENTS area below…

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