PSIS, the home of Family Banking.

It would not surprise me that one day, when "googling" the concept of customer service, one of the first things that pops up is PSIS. PSIS – a small banking provider in New Zealand – lives customer service as no bank does. This becomes clear the moment you set foot in one of their branches – a friendly environment where customers feel at home, because of the personalised attention they get from their staff. They actually WANT to help you; they go out of their way to assist and take a real interest in their customers and their families. A novel concept, indeed! Little wonder that PSIS’s mission is to provide practical ways for families to prosper.

I was talking to the CEO of PSIS recently and he told me this wonderful story. A story that totally typifies the culture of the company. The CEO and his wife attended a function celebrating the retirement of one of their branch managers. It goes like this.

"My wife and I spent the day in Tauranga on Friday, 7 September. The occasion was the celebration of David Mayston’s retirement; he has been with us, as our Tauranga Branch Manager, for over 25 years.

We spent most of the day in the branch, meeting and greeting customers who came to wish David well. In the evening, we shared a meal with David, his wife, their two sons and branch staff and their partners.

It was a day full of surprises. I had sort of expected to meet a few customers, make a couple of speeches, have dinner and come back home. This was an experience well beyond anything I could have imagined.

The farewell function started at 10:00am, in the branch, and lasted all day and into the evening. Sweets and savouries, and coffee and tea, were served in the branch all day.

There was a large banner on the wall, referring to David’s retirement, that customers could sign. A projector was set up, screening / projecting photos of David over the years, onto another wall.

Customers visited right through the day. Most brought a little card, and sometimes a little gift as well. David’s wife was serving customers refreshments and helping staff.

We had two groups of visitors from the local Marae. They sang and prayed, and told stories. David responded with a song of his own.

A 17 year old boy (member of the New Zealand Youth Choir that won the equivalent of a gold medal in an international competition in China a couple of years ago) came with his mum – and, as a gesture of "thank you" to David, he sang Oh Danny Boy.

This is the son of a woman, a solo mother, who managed to raise two wonderful children. David (through PSIS) had helped her along the way, with small loans here and there – and she has always paid back. Her younger son is a talented artist, who won the PSIS prize for the colouring-in competition last year – his was on one of the photos flashing on the wall, shaking David’s hand. The older one was the member of the choir.

This was all happening in the middle of the branch, while the usual business of the branch was going on at the counters and in the offices.

A customer in his 40s showed me a photo of his family, and pointed to a young girl in the photo, saying: "I owe her to David." Some years ago David had lent him $1,000. He was leaving the branch, ecstatic to have received the loan. David said to him, "Buy a bunch of flowers for your wife." He came back about a year later and said: "David, I came back to apologise. I did not buy my wife a bunch of flowers that day; I bought her one red rose instead – this is the result" (pointing to his very young daughter’s photo).

I met a young mother who was opening a savings account for a three month old boy. She said, "He is richer than I am – he already has $900 in his PSIS account; I have nothing." She is a third generation customer.

The elderly customers, who had been looked after by David over many years, wanted to know who the next Branch Manager was. I introduced them to the new Branch Manager. "Oh yes; we know her," they said. They were relieved. They trusted her; just as they had trusted David over many years.

The words I heard most frequently during the day were: help, trust, fair and firm.

As we were leaving the restaurant late that evening, I shook David’s hand, thanked him for the day and said that it had far exceeded even my wildest expectations. His eyes filled as he replied: "I am delighted that you had a chance to personally experience the stories I have been telling you over the past five years." He seemed to be genuinely very happy that he had a chance to show me personally that his stories were all true."

What a story!

In today’s hectic environment where we are getting conditioned to using computers, pushing buttons and computer generated voices instructing us what to do, it is nice to know that some organisations are smart enough to let real people do what they are naturally good at – care, show interest and help.

September 2007

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