Note: The following post was written by Taylor W. Wells, Communications Director for On The Mark Strategies

A few days ago I stopped by my usual Chinese restaurant on the way home. Admittedly, I am particular with my order and get pretty much the same thing every time. The service is usually fair although they do seem to have a pretty high turnover rate with cashiers. The cashier on this night was particularly awful and got me to thinking about how we handle quirky consumers in banks and credit unions.

I placed the same order as always, beef and broccoli, hold the broccoli. Yes, it’s a little peculiar, I admit. I like the beef but I’ve never been crazy about how they cook the broccoli. It’s not like I ask them to charge me less for the meal because I’m not getting the broccoli.

When I placed the order the cashier gave me an overly dramatic and odd look. When she didn’t stop looking at me that way, I actually said “Is that order okay with you?” She seemed surprised by my question and said “Yes, but what’s the point of beef and broccoli if you’re not going to order the broccoli?”

While that’s a fair question, she had no business giving the puzzled look or offering her opinion on the matter. Her job was to take my order and get me the food in a timely manner. As I sat there waiting on my apparently very high maintenance beef and broccoli, I thought about how we treat our members and customers in credit unions and banks, especially when it comes to pairing consumer need with consumer engagement practices.

The majority of the people in our teller lines and offices probably pose little to no challenge when it comes to providing good service. But it’s not the bread and butter member customer that I worry about. It’s those that come in with a particularly challenging question or situation. How well are we handling their needs? More importantly, what kind of training investment are banks and credit unions making in their front-line staff to assure superior service?

If you’re curious about this, an interesting (and sometimes painfully entertaining) way to find out is the great mystery shop experience. By arranging for a complete stranger to walk-in and pose challenging questions to your staff, he or she may discover just how well they handle tricky situations. All the training in the world is well and good, but the time and money spent on it only makes sense if your staff applies what they learned in real world scenarios.

All this is not to say our front-line banking and credit union staff should relegate themselves to the role of order-taker. In the evolving world of financial services consumer engagement, a more intimate knowledge of what a member or customer needs paired with what we have to offer is an integral part of service.

Your cross sales approach should not look like a “product of the month” promotion in which we blindly toss out checking accounts one month and used auto loans the next simply because that’s what the marketing calendar dictates. The art of consumer engagement is a more elegant tool designed to bring together financial institution offerings with consumer needs.

Taking care of customers and members is the number one goal of any financial institution. Learning how to address the unique and individual needs of consumers and meet the obligations of cross-sales platforms is a key in reaching this goal. Ensure your staff is doing everything possible to both successfully address the consumer engagement needs of the many and the “beef and broccoli, hold the broccoli” specialty requests of the picky few. Like me.