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Henry Walker, CEO Farmers & Merchants Bank  

Click Here for Henry Walker's Bio

How to boost consumer confidence...


The impact of the mortgage crisis still has banks struggling to maintain their stature with their depositors and shareholders. It makes it very hard to do business as usual. We are spending so much time trying to stabilize the string of Dominos that continue to fall into the next sector of the economy. The tightening of credit and higher fuel prices are making it a struggle for companies to get customers in the door.

As I reflect on the recent FDIC takeover of IndyMac Bank, I find myself asking, “What can I do to boost customer confidence and create some momentum in our business community?”  

In observing this bank failure, I jotted down notes of behavioral factors that I, along with other business owners, regardless of industry, should practice daily. Though they may seem basic, these factors can play a huge role in how customers view our organizations and their future relationship with us.

•    Keep all lines of communication open. No one likes to hear bad news. However, chances are, bad news sounds even worse when it’s revealed too late to explain. Being honest and direct with your customers, shareholders, and employees in regards to your current business condition, whether good or bad, is crucial in maintaining their trust.

•    Treat people like people. No matter how large a company grows, it should not change how it treats its customers. For example, I believe all businesses should make the effort to allow customers to speak to a live person over the phone or face to face. 

•    Be proactive in communicating to key customers. In banking, there is a 10-90 rule. Ten percent of our customers can impact 90 percent of our business. It is important that our key officers communicate often with our key customers, maintaining their trust and confidence in us in order to see them through these troubling times.

•    Take responsibility. Although we try to avoid mistakes and failures, they do happen. Inspect what you expect…constant assessment, evaluation of current position, and adapting to change quickly should be our new mantras.

This summer season has become very challenging. As we endure these difficult times and watch the economy continue to change, we must adapt to keep our business doors open, employees positive, and continue to nurture our relationships with our customers and the community in which we live.