Background Checks

Not long ago I was talking with a Vice President of Human Resources for a major multistate financial institution. I asked if his institution did any sort of reference or background checking on their tellers.  “Are you kidding?” was his reply.  “How could we justify checking references on our teller candidates when we don’t pay them that much and we have significant turnover among tellers anyway.”  Talk about short-sighted!  Who represents the bank to the majority of its customers?  Is it the senior loan officer in the carpeted office upstairs?  She may account for higher numbers of the bank’s total assets, but it’s the teller who personifies the bank to most customers.  The teller is usually the actual face of the bank!

Wouldn’t you think it might be worthwhile to spend a few bucks to find out if the teller candidate is honest and to learn whether or not that person gets along well with others and can remain calm and polite in stressful situations?  As I listened to the VP rationalize not checking references or backgrounds on teller candidates, I couldn’t help wondering how many customers have already been lost because of a teller’s unpleasant personality.  How many former customers might have been kept, how many new loans or mortgages would have come their way if only a little time and money had been invested in the selection of honest and personable first-line employees?

Worse yet, how much potential new business was lost because of a bad experience a former customer had with an unpleasant teller.  The sad truth is that, when customers are treated well, they usually don’t tell others about the experience, but they do tell many people about a bad experience.  That kind of bad “publicity” can spread in a hurry, especially in smaller cities and communities.

Although I didn’t say anything to the VP of HR about it, the quality of customer service people receive can make or break any business.  It makes so much more sense, and costs fewer dollars, to make sure great people – who literally are the bank to most of its customer base – are hired, rather than incur the enormous cost of trying to rebuild the bank’s image, which one unpleasant teller can destroy in an afternoon.