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Seven Things a Teller Should Never Say to a Member
Thursday, March 13, 2014 6:40 AM

Joshua Witt

Most of us at one point or another have said something we wish we wouldn’t have. Unfortunately, once those words have come out of our mouths there is no taking them back. Not only can these situations be embarrassing, but if you are in member service, they can negatively affect the member relationship.

Joshua Witt of Two Mile Consulting lists seven things tellers should never say to members under any circumstances:

  1. “Wow… I never knew you made that much money!” – Member compensation and personal assets are a private matter. Tellers are inherently trusted with personal information that should be protected through professional discretion. Some of our wealthiest members may not “wear their wealth.” No matter what a teller sees on the screen or observes when conducting a transaction, they should never make overt or careless comments about a member’s finances.
  2. “It’s just the way I talk!” – Sometimes the words we choose can mean different things to different people. Cultural and moral beliefs strongly influence what is deemed acceptable when it comes to what we say… and how we say it. There is no room for crude and rude language on the teller line. You represent the organization and not just yourself when interfacing with our members.
  3. “I really don’t agree with that policy!” – If members see tellers questioning the policies that define how our credit unions operate, we can compromise the solidarity that enables fairness and equality. Though entitled to our own opinion, the lobby is not the place to let that opinion be known. Most organizations have an “open door” policy that gives access to supervisors and managers if there are concerns with policies. Express your thoughts in the right context; you’ll avoid confusion and discord.
  4. “Would it be OK if I saw you sometime other than here at the credit union?” – Talk about opening the proverbial can of worms! Personal conversations stemming from attraction and possible relationships have absolutely no place on the teller line. Even welcomed flirtatious contact from members should not be reciprocated in the workplace. Be very careful to maintain a balance of polite professionalism and avoid instigating an overly personal connection or infatuation.
  5. “It’s not my fault!” – When a member hears a deflection of responsibility from one of our tellers (even if it’s completely warranted) they automatically assume we’re blaming them. It is critically important that we approach any possible conflicts or differences of opinion on the teller line with great caution. Accusations and rebuttals will do very little to solve the problem if an error or mistake has been made when counting money. Engage your supervisor and immediately seek an amiable resolution versus seeing a situation spiral.
  6. “Maybe…probably…I think…” – We’re talking about our member’s money! They don’t want to hear wishy-washy answers when asking about funds availability, account balances, ACH transfers, etc. Take the time to ascertain a valid answer when asked a question. Tellers are the frontline ambassadors of our credit unions. Members want to see confident and qualified representatives that will provide accurate and factual information. Remove indecision from your intonation and word choices. That quick second that you take to verify information before answering can make all the difference in the world when it comes to their impression.
  7. “Well… Sir or Ma’am… if you would just let me finish!” – Always be aware of what our members are saying, and why they’re saying it in the first place. Sometimes friendly conversations too quickly turn formal when we perceive an inevitable point of contention. This often becomes the causation for escalation. Another consideration is the transition to “Sir or Ma’am” - an argument trigger for many folks. While members should never be allowed to act hostilely or abusive to our tellers, their concerns may need to be heard. In that moment where flustered feelings of frustration are freely flowing fruitlessly, take the time to listen and be less interested in finishing your own sentence. Enlist your supervisor’s involvement early and seek resolution quickly.

Witt is slated to present at the Cornerstone Credit Union League’s Annual Meeting & Expo April 22-24. His session is titled, “Surviving on the Front Lines - The Challenge of Being a Supervisor.” Among other things, he will share insight on what it takes to be a leader, trainer, evaluator and morale builder.

He will also present, “Planning for the Unplanned: When Should We Take Action to Mitigate Known Threats?” at this year’s conference.

Online registration is now available for the Cornerstone Credit Union League’s Annual Meeting & Expo April 22-24 in San Antonio, Texas. The theme for this premiere event of the year is one team…one dream, Unite for Good. Credit union professionals and volunteers should register by Register by March 23, 2014 to secure the best hotel rate and the best conference rate. This year’s conference features 24 concurrent educational sessions and three general sessions.

For more information on the Annual Meeting & Expo, including registration, please visit the Education section of Cornerstone’s website. If you have any questions, please contact Training & Events, at (469) 385-6630 or (800) 442-5762, ext. 6630

Educational grants are available through the Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation. To learn more, please visit