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Our recent BAI Banking Strategies article on Southwest Airlines generated a great deal of response.

 

I was particularly struck by a note I received from John Beran, former Executive responsible for all Bank Operations and Technology at Comerica about their very successful “Walk a Mile Program”.


As John noted, this program was invaluable in creating a strong bond between the “back room” and the “front office” – and creating an agile environment that could deliver better customer service and respond more quickly to change.

 

Your recent article about Herb Kelleher inspired me to write to you.  Specifically, it is the takeaways from his example.  The actions he took brought back to me the program I put in place at Comerica when I was the Executive responsible for all Bank Operations  and Technology.  I initiated a shadowing program that I called “The Service Company Walk a Mile Program.’

 

Through this program I required technology staff responsible for supporting our key businesses to work on the front lines along side the people who used the technology to service our customers.  For example, the programming staff responsible for Branch Automation would work along side tellers and platform personnel to see first hand how they interfaced with the technology, and the positives and negatives of the systems in servicing the customers.

 

This gave the staff a shared sense of ownership for the “end  customer” as well the challenges front line personnel face.  We did this with all core application areas such as Treasury Management, Lending, Trust, etc.  This program was invaluable in improving the systems the technology area supplied to our customer facing personnel, as well as developing a strong bond between the “back room” and the “front office.”

 

Conversely, I requested branch personnel to come visit our operations sites to see first hand the work flow of check and other payment processing operations to give them an appreciation for the complexity involved, and why we asked for certain procedures to be followed in the branch in their preparation of the work to be sent in processing.  I also invited members of my division to shadow me in order to get a feel for what my responsibilities were to help them better understand what might be behind the decisions I made in setting direction for the division.  We also had skip a level programs and encouraged all of our staff to engage in open dialogue with their managers. s well as developing a strong bond between the “back room” and the “front office.”

 

All of this was part of a multi-faceted program we called “The Service Company Transformation Program” which was about getting technology and operations staff to think less about task and more about the customer.  I wanted to share this with you as I believe your article is right on point, and how important it is to think about the customer in everything we do.

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