Jul 18, 2012

Nothing says “We Love you, Mr. Customer!” like 31 years of Onions

Onions for distribution
I walked into my local bank the other day and by the window I found a huge pile of produce.  Turns out that these 10 lb. bags of Walla Walla onions are this year’s supply to continue a customer gift tradition begun 31 years ago by the then-owner of this small bank in Silicon Valley, University Bank and Trust. Carl J. Schmitt, who attended college at Whitman in Walla Walla, hit on the idea of gifting his customers with something unique. Each year his customers left each one of the three bank branches with a bag of onions personally conveyed to them with thanks and a handshake from a bank employee.  Although Schmitt’s UniversityBank and Trust was acquired in 1995 by the far larger, multi-branch Comerica Bank, Comerica decided to continue giving away onions at the former University Bank branches. 

Since 1996, one 10 lb bag at a time, Comerica Bank has sent out its doors more than 370,000 pounds of onions. 

“Comerica is committed to our customers,” said J. Michael Fulton, President, ComericaBank--Western Market. “By giving away Walla Walla sweet onions, we can thank our customers for their patronage.”

Other customer “courting” tips from University Bank

Onion love offerings may seem an unusual way to honor customers, but, as a customer myself, I can tell you that they build brand loyalty and strengthen personal relationships between the bank and its customers. I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Schmitt, but he seemed to think like me with regards to customer delight. I did some research on some of other practices he employed that helped triple the stock price of the old bank within its first 4 years of operation:

  • ·         Free shoe shines provided at a stand in the bank lobby
  • ·         Pens not chained down and easy for everyone to use
  • ·         Oriental rugs and fresh flowers in the vault of safe deposit boxes
  • ·         Stamps sold by tellers and all statements mailed on the second day of the month
  • ·         Non-cash deposits picked up from some customers’ office by drivers of vans humorously decorated with lifelike paintings of safe-crackers at work.  Customers appreciated the wit and not having waste time going to the bank.
  • ·         Free traveler's and cashiers checks
  • ·         Free photocopies of papers and signature verification
What about your service business? 

Should you be doing more to court your customer and let them know you value and appreciate them? It seems to me that Schmitt had some great ideas about making it easy to do business with University Bank. Is there more you can do to make it easy and enjoyable for customers to do business with you?

If you’re interested, I know where you can get a good, bulk deal on some onions.