Knee-Jerk Responses Issue 873

In which we are reminded that we miss opportunities when we jump to conclusions too quickly.

I’m friendly with the branch manager at a local bank. I decided that I’d like to move some idle funds from my main bank account at a much larger bank to his branch. I looked at his bank’s website and decided that I wanted one of two possible accounts there. Through a few quick emails with my friend, the branch manager, he recommended a particular account.

After several weeks, on a Thursday, I emailed him and said,” I’ll come in on Monday morning. Could 10:30 AM work for you?” He wrote back, “Yes.”

When I arrived on Monday morning, my friend wasn’t there, delayed in a meeting. However, his three colleagues were there. I was dressed casually, in shorts and a polo shirt, carrying my enormous black briefcase. I greeted one of the three, Ed, and said, “Good morning, my name is Nick. I’d like to open a True Convenience Money Market Account.”

He sat down across from me, working on his computer, asking me the usual questions about my name, address, and so on. One of his colleagues, Jack, came to look over Ed’s shoulder.  In due course, Jack smiled at me, said, “hello,” and, at one point asked, “How long have you had your business?“

“27 years,” I replied. “Cool!”, he affirmed.

Other than that question, I sat in 45-minute mausoleum silence as Ed worked through all the screens and I signed all the documents. At the end, I stood up, thanked Ed for opening the account, and I left.

I was gobsmacked. In 45 minutes, their only question or statement (other than those required to open the account) was, “How long have you had your business?“

A few days later, I called my friend, the branch manager, to share my experience.

“They thought you were a fake customer, a professional shopper,” he said. “I had told them you would be coming in and, when you showed up, they didn’t recognize you. They said you walked in, you knew exactly which account you wanted, and they thought you were shopping them. So, they didn’t make the effort to explore your situation because they figured you were there to open a $20 account, write up your findings for the bank, and move on.”

Well, never mind that, if his guys thought I was a professional shopper, they might have put on a better show.

The point is, I was a legitimate customer and something in the way I entered, approached, or engaged them triggered them to see me as a #fakecustomer so far off the familiar pattern that they didn’t ask me even the most basic questions like, “What do you think of this great weather we’re having?” or “How will you use the account?”, that they would surely have asked anybody else who walked into the branch to open an account.  They simply didn’t recognize me for what I was.

In his book, Chapterhouse Dune, Frank Herbert wrote, “Ready comprehension is often a knee-jerk response and the most dangerous form of understanding. It blinks an opaque screen over your ability to learn.”

Over time, we learn patterns of prospect or customer behavior that separate time-wasters from worthwhile opportunities.  The faster we make those decisions, the more effectively we use our time.

The idea, ‘though, is to be careful about knee-jerk responses that label time-wasters (or worthwhile opportunities) too soon, blink the opaque screen,  and reduce our ability to learn, often to our disadvantage.

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