Fans Not Customers: Vernon Hill

Fans not Customers: Vernon Hill

“A fan, sometimes also called aficionado or supporter, is a person who supports with a liking and enthusiasm for something, such as a band, a sports team or entertainer. Fans of a particular thing or person constitute its fan base or fandom. They may show their enthusiasm by being a member of a fan club, holding fan conventions, creating fanzines, writing fan mail, or by promoting the object of their interest and attention. Some fans even take it as far as impersonating their idol or go into a state of insanity by believing they are the character the person is obsessed with.” Why can’t businesses cultivate fans in the same way? When reading Fans not Customers you the reader as well as this reviewer will take away some invaluable information and lessons on how and why when dealing with customers you need to excel in more than just outstanding customer service. You must provide hours seven days a week, welcome customers into your store and provide the kind of service that will get them talking at parties, at work and even when in your store telling others why they should frequent your business over others. So, let’s get started and find out just how Vernon Hill the founder of Commerce Bank put his Amazing plan into action.


Next, he founded Metro Bank in the UK, which as the author states has no other bank like it in the world. Now, that is a huge statement and one to live up to big time. But, according to Mr. Hill this bank is open 365 days a year and the service is unparalleled plus their customer service is live 24 hours a day. Imagine lines to get into a bank. Imagine the media making a big deal over the opening and covering it. Imagine people loving the new and different design, the locos all over the place that makes this bank stand far apart and above the rest. Conventional is out and new and innovative in. So, what did he do? Now, let’s learn what he does.


Commerce Bank opened in 2007 and for over 34 years and he and his wife Shirley and a totally dedicated team of professionals took to bank to huge heights. Starting out in southern New Jersey and expanding to 440 stores this bank went from being one of 24000 community banks to begin a “regional powerhouse.” What is the differentiator and what makes it different from the rest? The value of deposits is what makes this bank thrive. Learning more about McDonalds and starting his own Site Development Business before launching Commerce Bank gave him a huge client base and starting point to learn about their methods of success, their customer service and their unique model. Commerce bank and Metro Bank have the most rapidly growing deposit base, and the lowest cost of deposit funding. Although the customer receives the best retail experience they are getting a lower yield on their money allowing the bank to give them a lower yield on their money.


As the author defines the difference between customers and fans we begin to understand even more just why his model was a success. Fans are customers he states, “ That become part of your community and convert their friends to new customers of your brand.” A customer is a person that comes into your bank and is totally indifferent to the bank and the staff. The reason they bank with you can be because the bank is close by, around the corner but not because they have any great love or affinity for the bank or the personnel. Marketing is the key to the success of any business and when one fan tells another fan let’s say about their favorite team in baseball or soccer the word spreads and more people might go to a game. The same goes for marketing this bank. When a fan wears the Metro “M” pin or they walk up to an employee and tell they how much they love the bank and encourage friends to bank there, it is the best marketing tool you can ask for. When was the last time you said to a bank employee that you loved their bank?


What would you do if you left your checkbook at the bank and the bank was closed? Would you expect the CSR to track you down and make sure you get that checkbook? Would you expect that CSR to find where you are after closing and return it? Metro Bank employees go more than the extra mile because what I just asked you really did happen. Amazing isn’t it. Wouldn’t you become a fan?


Next the author explains branding and the three types ending with the one that would create fans. Emotional branding has a massive value and yields a fan base. There is the basic brand that names and relates to the product. Next, the feel good about brand and lastly the legend brand which “overwhelms the product” and thus creates the fans. He goes on to explain the fast-food model and how it influenced much of what he does at Metro Bank. You need to learn this and read pages 26-31 to learn more. How else are you going to understand just what the author is trying to explain and become a fan too?


One important note that I find impressive and still do when you enter a bank that has a Magic Money Machine and where you can count your coins for free and get a voucher that can be exchanged for cash. Of course when a non-customer uses the machine for the first time it is also free which just might encourage them to become a customer too. But, everyone new experience does not bring totally trust in the clients or customers. Trust takes time and you need to earn it. Then the author shares in the remaining part of this chapter stories that you will definitely want to read for yourself. So, go ahead read them and then get a copy of the book for your friends.


The next chapter explains putting the “Grand in Grand Openings,” followed by The New Math. In this chapter the author discusses what Model +Culture +Execution = Fans means. On pages 41- 48 he outlines and explains the following: the meaning of Protect the Brand: Do nothing stupid! Refine the Brand: Make it better all the time! Expand the Brand: Find new products and new areas where we can add value. He continues to elaborate on this throughout the chapter and making a startling but thought provoking statement:  Metro Bank culture is the social fabric of Metro Bank is their DNA. Now if you understand that your DNA is who you are and what you are made of that distinguishes you from others and sets you apart then you will understand that the DNA matches his model throughout the organization. He elaborates on this throughout Chapter 5. The only thing that I will say is that the experience he relates with another bank is one that I had with that same bank and since closed by account. That is all I will say and I agree that the customer service, since it was a credit card, over the phone was and still is anything that client should endure or deal with. You often find yourself saying things to the representative that I know the clients at Metro Bank would never think of saying. The really interesting page is 47 where he explains the four myths of UK banking and if you want to know what they are you are going to have to read it for yourself. Chapter 6 focuses on Love Your Bank At Last. Can you imagine walking into a bank and really having a great experience each and every time? Well what does matter is appearance, service and convenience. Now, How hard is that? So, why don’t other banks follow suit? What is amazing is that they provide their customers with 100 percent service every time? You know when you think about it that sounds fantastic in more ways than one so can you imagine what would happen to the customer complaint hotlines all over the world in every business if everyone followed his model? Think about it for a moment! Even doctors don’t provide 100 percent service all the time! Stating and very well said that if you are going to have customers that love you:  YOU NEED TO AMAZE THEM! The core of what he does is FANS NOT CUSTOMERS.


Chapter 7 is titled Surprise and Delight which helps and guides employees as the right words to use when helping clients plus the four important components that back up their attitude: Product Knowledge, Company Knowledge, Listening Skills and Problem Solving Skills expanded on within the chapter. Would your bank allow Dogs and Pet? Would your bank put out a welcome mat for pets? Dogs Rule Policy and a children’s banking initiative called Kid’s Rock.


What are the five ways you AMAZE: A: Attend to every detail, M: Make every wrong right, A: Ask if you’re not sure, bump it up, Z: Zest is contagious, share it and finally E: Exceed Expectations: just what this means and how it is defined in detail read Chapters 9 and 10. Hire for Attitude: Train For Skill. I love what he says: If someone coming in for a job does not smile in the first two minutes they are not hired. That is one thing that turns you off when someone does not say good morning or goes not greet the customer properly. I love going into my favorite hotel where they greet me by name, provide coffee when I walk through the door and make sure my favorite fruit bowl is available. Simple things make fans. The fact that they train their employees and provide classes is truly remarkable. The rest of the chapter relates stories of different employees and the reasons they love working at Commerce Bank. I have to add my brother is a 20- year customer with your bank, which is now TD Bank and would never leave.
Chapter 14 No Stupid Rules pages 108-112 followed by Petplan insurance and finally his closing word, which includes the lessons he hopes you, will come away with after reading this book, which are on page 132. Five things everyone should know: Take ownership of the problem if there is one. Listen to find the problem, Clarify and understand the problem and repeat it back to the customer. The other two well you need to read page 130 and this book to learn more. The final chapter highlights what others say about Vernon Hill plus a great appendix to explain many of the terms used in the book. What do I say? Read this book and you will feel the energy and excitement the author relates about Metro Bank, PetPlan and Commerce in every single word on every page.


Fran Lewis: reviewer