A Story of Banks
By Moshe Katz
Israeli Krav International

August 18, 2016, Israel

Service; this is a necessary ingredient in all industries. If the mob boss gives you instructions, they must be carried out in a timely manner, not when you have time. The newspaper must be delivered at a certain time. E mails must be answered without delay, orders must be shipped out and delivered on time.

No matter how great your product is, without great service it is pretty much worthless. I need it yesterday, not in two weeks. If you cannot deliver it when I need it, I will find someone who can. Service, you have to be pretty outstanding to survive without it.

I guess if the Beatles said their new album will be ready in three months and it took six, well, we would wait, because the Beatles have no competition, but for pretty much any other product, you have to deliver the goods, on time. Service, the backbone of any good business.

I worked at a bank in Israel. We had a staff meeting. The goal was simple. Many tourists, among them some very wealthy people, visit Israel on a regular basis. We want their money. We want them to leave their money with us here in Israel. In other words we want them to open accounts in our bank so we can earn more.

Now the question is how. How do we get successful entrepreneurs to open an account with us. This was the question posed to us at the staff meeting in Jerusalem. The ideas popped up quickly.

Offer them free T shirts with our bank logo if they open an account!

Excellent, said the manager.

Give the free pens with our bank name and logo.

Another great idea.

Things were going well, until one stubborn individualistic misfit opened his mouth.

That would be me.

Now wait a minute, I said. Let me speak. After all I too came from outside this country and I remember when my dad and my uncle came to Israel. They had purchased Israel Bonds to support Israel and were told, hey, it is a great investment and you support Israel, and when you come to Israel to visit you can cash them in. And Americans bought these bonds.

Only when they arrived in Israel things did not go smoothly. Now remember this is before the days when everything is computerized.

I recall the frustration, a short visit to Israel and you spent half your time in the bank. Why? Because cashing those bonds was a pain in the royal behind! It involved complex calculations, forms in triplicate and all sorts of inconvenient work. As a result the American tourist was usually greeted with...

"We do not handle this at our branch, you need to go to central branch of Jerusalem."

"The guy who handles this has been called to the front lines, God only knows when he will return."

"We are out of those forms, come back Tuesday afternoon." (When the bank is closed, ha ha).

So, I suggested, these rich Americans do not really need your silly T shirt, or your pens, what they need is service. What they need is not to waste their time in your incompetent banks, they need to get in and out quickly so they can enjoy their vacation and visit the Western Wall, not the bank walls.

I recall the response from management. "Outrageous! You are being disrespectful to the bank, you are not a team player, you are unpatriotic towards the bank...and (this is my favorite) you do not know on which side of the counter you sit, you are thinking of the customers interest rather than that of the bank".

Yes, all true, guilty as charged.

Not surprisingly I did not last long as a bank employee.

A few years earlier, as an MBA student in New York, I also worked for an Israeli/American bank. There was a contest. The employees were asked to submit detailed proposals on how the bank can improve its service. I was very excited and got down to work.

I was young, an entry level employee, and this was my chance to shine. When the big day came and the five chosen proposals were presented, I was hopeful but nervous. Would any of mine be chosen out of all the branches in the New York region?

Low and behold of the five chosen three were mine!

I was delighted, elated, ecstatic and soon to be bitterly disappointed. Surely I was about to be promoted, surely I was on the path to management. But my friend Shemaryahu from Israel was older and wiser.

"Listen my foolish, I mean young, friend. Not only will you not be promoted but there is a good chance you will be fired."

I was confused.  Fired? me?

He explained. The bank must run these contests from time to time but they really do not want to hear suggestions. They do not want to hear that some young entry level whipper snapper is smarter than the top brass. No, making suggestions for improvements is not a good idea at all as it shows you feel there is something wrong with the way the bank is doing business. The correct response is: I am not submitting any proposals for improvement as I feel you guys in management are doing a damn fine job. Keep it up boys!

My Israeli friend had a future in the bank, I did not.

So now I am in charge of IKI Krav Maga, and those ideas that were rejected by the banks are finding new life here. Here we are open to suggestions, here you will not be "fired" for suggesting improvements or asking questions. 

Just yesterday I received a call from Florida about a situation that I had never imagined. We worked on it and a new technique emerged. Today all our members around the world, as part of our On Line Training program, have received this video clip. Thank you Channel for bringing this situation to our attention. That is how we grow.

We do not fire those who think creatively and independently, we encourage them.

At our bank we had a cartoon that pretty much summed up the banks' attitude towards customer service. An old lady walks in with a $100 bill and asks for ten dollar bills. "But lady, please understand, our computer system is down, no one can help you now."

Service, the backbone of any industry.

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