On Ho‘okipa: “give me an example.”

This came up with one of my own customers during a coaching session yesterday, for she’d followed my post at Todd’s customer service forum and had some questions. So I gave her a few ideas on how ho‘okipa could become more pervasive in her own company, within her own circle of influence as a manager there. She soon chimed in with ideas of her own: it was a great brainstorming session, filling us both with optimism about her prospects.

Afterwards, I remembered a post I’d written back in December that was a wishful thinking kind of thing about a bank here in Kona. For some reason I never posted it: looking back it may just have been the holidays catching up with me or other things grabbing headline space when I came back from my ho‘omaha.

Who knows, maybe this was just meant to be saved for now. Unfortunately, being that it’s Friday, I’d bet this little scene, minus the holiday flavor, is playing out in banks in nearly every city across our islands. Here it is.

Not sure what I was thinking at the time, but I went to the bank the Friday before Christmas. I’d promised my daughter, away at college, that her early Christmas gift would be some cash in her account, and without one of her personalized deposit slips the ATM machine outside the bank building couldn’t help me. Walking through the entry door, I saw the line starting to circle the Christmas tree well beyond the normal ropes, and I reluctantly took the last spot, resigned to my fate.

We easily outnumbered the tellers 6 to 1 and counting — I wasn’t at caboose for long — for there were only three of them. I was a good little customer; my paperwork was pre-done, my driver’s license was out if the teller needed it, and I’d even taken my sunglasses off for the security cameras. Having nothing else to do but wait, I looked around, and noticed what most people in line at a busy bank notice:

– Beyond the tellers, another four employees in the back office, clearly seen working on other things through the slatted divider, desperately wishing it was a solid wall instead.

– A supervisor, also busy, lifting her eyes occasionally to check on the tellers, but amazingly blind to the ever-growing line.

– The specialists: three employees who take care of things like safety deposit boxes, loans, and personal banking for really wealthy customers, seated at their desks without anyone, but with lots of preoccupation.

– The teller closest to my place in line has a name plate that says TELLER IN TRAINING. However she seems to be holding her own pretty well, and on her face is consternation (that’s as good a word as any for it.)

Now you know what I was thinking. Aren’t these people cross-trained? Can’t they see this LINE? Am I the only one who feels sorry for these tellers, even though they won’t smile at us anymore?

The line wasn’t moving all that fast, and so I noticed something else. There was a framed Vision Statement on the side wall. The heading said, KINA ‘OLE, something I’d remembered Dr. George Kanahele defining as “flawless performance,” and underneath it were a few sentences I don’t now recall verbatim, which said something to the effect of striving to do things the right way, at the right time, and right the first time.

However, it didn’t say anything about doing the right thing in the first place.

It didn’t say anything about doing the Aloha thing.

So as I often do, I started a pretend story in my head. Imagine this:

Leialoha knows she’ll be shift supervisor at her bank during the lunch crunch today, the Friday before Christmas. On her way to work she stops at the grocery store, because she remembered seeing the plastic tubs of Christmas cookies they’d put out, and what a deal, only $7.99 for 3 dozen cookies. Santa faces and holiday wreaths; very festive. She’d tried the sample they offered; ono (delicious) too.

The morning flies by. Momi calls in that her son is sick, and phone calls to get another teller comes up short. Just as Leialoha knew it would, the lunch crunch hits right on time: at 11:30am the line of customers starts to circle the Christmas tree beyond the ropes.

Beyond the divider, Lauren notices too. She decides the work on her computer screen can wait; she was a teller once, and she knows what it’s like. She gets a bank drawer and opens another teller window, beckoning to the next person in line. She greets him warmly, and smiles to herself as she sees the relief on the faces of everyone behind him.

And what’s this? Leialoha is on the other side of the counter! She’s offering her tub of Christmas cookies to those in line, saying “Merry Christmas!” “Have a cookie while you wait.” “Mahalo plenty for your patience.” She is working and living with aloha, and we all feel so much better.

Everyone in the line is smiling now. It’s the right thing.

For another bank story, one that is true and very heartwarming, click over to Todd’s right now, and read the one Rosemary wrote about Jim.

You’ve got a double treat there at Business Thoughts today, for Dave has one too!

Comments

  1. says

    Are stories, such as this one, not the warmth we all enjoy? A story is so much more than the experience of one individual…it’s the emotional bond between human beings– people to people…a part of the human condition. Think back to the days before writing…think back to the days when stories were told around the fire and they were the only ways to teach the young– about their culture, their family history, and about how to deal with the present. This is a beautiful story and demonstrates the power of everything you teach in your wonderful book, Rosa. You used words to paint a picture — one we are all familiar with — and it spoke volumes. You are a wise woman. We need more of you in the world.