Calling customers by name

When Laurie Wolfe hears a Columbus Community Bank employee call her by name, it speaks volumes. "It makes you feel like you're their most important customer," said Wolfe, bank customer and owner of Columbus chid care center Puddle Jumpers. "It makes you feel like you’re not just a number. You're actually an individual person."

Employees and management at Columbus Community Bank, in fact, make it a point to remember and call customers by name.

It's a small and simple personal touch that fits into the bank’s mission of personalized customer service -- something the community bank prides itself on and is hoping will set them apart from others.

The community bank opened at its Veterans Parkway location in October 2006 and will move to Columbus Park Crossing in July.

“One thing I’ve always felt was really important was recognition of your customers,” said Bob Stranger, president and chief executive officer of Columbus Community Bank . “ I t means a lot to someone when you know who they are and acknowledge them on a first name basis — or a Mr. or Ms. basis.”

“Service is what’s going to differentiate us from our competition,” he added.

Feeling like family

Right now, Columbus Community Bank is in a temporary location in Main Street Village. It has 15 employees and no other branches just yet. Much of their focus is on small business owners, many of whom come in several times a week.

Bank customer Kathy Watley co - owns Master Plumbing with her husband, Ronnie. She goes to the bank at least twice a week, sometimes with her 3-yearold granddaughter Karle. The bank knows her so well that if Karle falls asleep in the car while driving to the bank, Watley will call ahead and employees will go outside to get Watley’s deposit.

“It makes you feel like family,” she said.

Wolfe, who goes into the bank at least once a week for her business, said its small size affords something she may not necessarily get at bigger banks.

“If you go to a certain branch all the time, you may have one or two employees who know you by name,” she said. “But (at Columbus Community Bank), everybody knows your name, from the president to the teller to the receptionist.” The bank does not have formal training programs that mention the gesture, but calling customers by name is “emphasized” at its weekly meetings, Stranger said.

Patti Greene, executive assistant and customer service representative at the bank, admitted that sometimes it’s difficult to remember everyone’s name. She recalls one time, however, when she recognized a bank customer at Wal-Mart and greeted him by name.

“I think it surprised him,” she said.Strong relationships

Remembering customers — inside or outside of the bank — can also “instill a little bit of confidence in the customer,” Greene said.

And customer confidence is crucial in a business where employees are handling your money.

“This is all sensitive information, so it’s important to have a strong relationship and confidence in your banker,” Stranger said.

Bank customer Michael Eddings, a local attorney and owner of the Coffee Beanery in Columbus, has been a customer since the bank opened and says they have a “solid relationship.”

Eddings said by the bank getting to know him and his business needs, it shows “your business is important to them and they’re taking time to acknowledge that.

“It makes you want to do business with them again,” he said.