“I am missing meeting customers face-to-face,” confessed a branch manager of a large private bank in India after watching a video blog I did last week. As a student of conversations, it made me curious and I requested her to elaborate. What followed, left me stunned.
“Working virtually, I feel low in confidence. I feel I am not growing in terms of knowledge and personality. The addition of new acquaintances in life has stopped. While working in a physical setup, we learn through speaking to new people. Body language tells us a lot about a person, how concerned, or how genuine one is; the facial expressions tell you,” she explained.
A bank branch relationship is mostly transactional in nature. Given that bank managers in India are overloaded with work, it was beyond intriguing to hear such in-depth views on non-verbal cues during customer conversations. I met her on one of the Mumbai-Delhi flights many years back and we exchanged numbers. This was the first long conversation we had over WhatsApp. Can you share any examples of the influence of body language when you are working in the branch, I carried forward the discussion.
“If a customer comes to my branch with an issue, my reaction will be noticed by my body language. Am I just using customer service jargons or am I really concerned? Am I looking at my laptop while listening or have I put my laptop flap down and then listening? If s/he shares a problem, am I saying sorry as a formality, or sincerely? The customer would know through my tone,” she patiently explained.
I could not stop myself from asking, how these customer conversations have helped her personally. “You know, I come from a small village. Speaking fluent English was a big issue. Confidence was shaken when I started working in a Metro. It was only through public dealing that my confidence grew…,” the number of typos while typing showed she was probably emotional while sharing these details.
How do you compare those English classes or personality development courses with life lessons, I had got into my research mode by now.
“I never undertook any personality development course or English-speaking classes. I just kept meeting people and they appreciated my simplicity, and just being genuine helped,” she went on before I interrupted again to ask why is it important for a banker to have such conversations.
“As a banker, it is important to know the customers well to trust the kind of transactions in their account. Banking is a lot about trust, right?” Yes, agree, I said. But it seems deeper in your case; what do you talk to them about. My curiosity was not bottoming out.
“They share information about their relationships, jobs, business, and sometimes even complications in some of these aspects of life,” she confessed. By now, I was thinking whether the business leaders are listening to the views of their frontline employees or just the whole noise on social media about work-from-home, how it makes so much sense and why we even need face-to-face conversations at all.
Imagine if all conversations happen just through our smartphones and laptops, will we ever build meaningful relationships? So, what do you miss most about these face-to-face customer interactions? That was my last question. “The perspectives about life,” she said.
And that said it all.
This article is authored by Ritu Kant Ojha and was first published here.