An old friend, coming to Boston for a few days for a conference, emailed me saying, “We always said we’d meet for dinner if I were in town. Are you free for dinner Monday night?” Yes, of course, I wouldn’t miss it. So, I wrote back, accepting his invitation.
We met at Legal Seafood in Copley Square. Dinner was lovely. He has a strong affection for New England fried clams (“they just don’t taste the same back home”) so he ordered those with a Caesar salad. I ordered clam chowder and the Arctic Char. Our dinner conversation ranged widely – updates on our children, travel, fitness, his transition into retirement, spouses, houses, politics, on and on.
When it was time to handle the financial end of dinner, he asked our server for separate checks, one for each of us, which was fine. When the checks came, I realized (with a sharp jolt of deep-belly adrenaline) that I had come to the restaurant without my wallet. I’d left it in my overcoat, which I’d left in the car, a 20-minute round trip away.
“No problem,” he said, pulling out a personal credit card to pay for my dinner.
“Perfect,” I replied, “thank you.” Pulling out my phone, I said, “… and I can send you what I owe you right now.”
“OK,” he said, “I’ve just signed up for Venmo and I really like it.”
So, I pulled out my phone, opened my mobile banking account, and (first mistake) sent the payment using Zelle. The confirming email arrived on my friend’s phone. He clicked the link, fiddled for a moment, and said, “I can’t accept the payment, it says I need to sign up for Zelle.”
So, I asked for his phone and (second mistake) began the process of setting him up for Zelle…. which went fine until we discovered that his bank does not participate in the Zelle network.
By this time, 20 minutes had flown by and we both needed to move on. “I’ll finish this at my hotel,” he said, “or, if it doesn’t work, you can send me a check.”
The next morning, I texted him: “Thanks again for our dinner last night. If the Zelle application doesn’t work for you, let me know.”
He wrote back, “I really would prefer using only one system.”
“OK,” I replied, so I downloaded the Venmo app and sent him the payment…
Which…… is what I should have done when the checks came, first asking, “Are you on the Zelle network?” and, upon hearing, “no,” signing myself up for Venmo so I could pay him the way HE wanted to be paid rather than adding another app to his phone and wasting 30 minutes of his life so I could pay him with my app, the way that I wanted to pay.
One of Burger King’s commercial series led with the tag line, “Have it your way!” ( to distinguish them from McDonalds then current “have it our way” strategy). A good lesson to remember, whether we’re talking burgers or banking.
Nick Miller is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. He assists banks and credit unions to generate more and more profitable relationships, faster, with business clients, their owners, and their employees. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.
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