Get Out Of The Office

Refreshing piece in the NYT (since it omits the usual players and the jokes about anthropology) about the importance of getting out of the office and getting to where your customers are.

Once a year, though, he organizes a different kind of hunt – which he calls a “branch hunt.” In it, the entire organization turns its attention from the suite to the street – and, by scrutinizing the fine details of how banks interact with their customers, sees the market from a new perspective.

“The most thoughtful and articulate strategies tend to come from the big banks,” Mr. Brown explained. “But their actual results seldom bear that out. When you walk the streets and look at what’s happening, the gap between strategy and execution becomes obvious. We can’t just listen to what executives say. We have to see with our own eyes what customers are experiencing.”

The dress code for a branch hunt is casual, but the approach is rigorous. For its fourth annual hunt, Second Curve pinpointed the location of every branch of every bank on the East Side of Manhattan, from 25th to 86th Streets.

All the firm’s employees – the analysts, the compliance officer, the computer geek, the receptionist – divided into teams, were assigned specific avenues and streets and set out with digital cameras, audio recorders and four crisp $100 bills for each team. They spent time at the branches, chatted up bank employees, opened checking accounts with the company-issued cash, snapped photographs – not a popular practice with bank security – and captured the flesh-and-blood experience of being a customer.

After the hunt, the teams returned to headquarters and described what they saw, from stories about horrible or remarkable service, to reports on flat-screen televisions that were meant for customers’ viewing but were occasionally found in truly bizarre places where the public could not see them.


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