Spotted on Main Street: Customer Service

About 10 years ago – HSBC Bank (which has since left the area) had charged us a $35 annual fee on our credit card for the last time. I called. I couldn’t get a local or live person on the phone and they refused to reverse the charge even though we had our checking, savings and mortgage with them.

It was the last straw following a history of substandard service. I could not even find a number for our local branch, and I’d had enough of computer-generated auto attendants.

I looked up the Bank of Akron, found the phone number and called. A live person answered on the first ring. I asked for Peter Forrestel, the bank president.

“Just a minute, sir” the person on the other end said. She put me through to a voice mailbox without even screening my call.

“Hi Peter. My name is Joe Genco. Please call me back” and I left my number.

I’d seen Forrestel’s face in the newspaper and knew vaguely of his family, but the chance I was an insurance salesman, rather than a potential customer, was great.

That did not matter. Sometime just before 5 that day, my phone rang.

“Hi Joe, this is Peter Forrestel. What can I do for you?” he asked.

“Be my banker” was my response.

He thanked me for the call and said he’d have someone get in touch with us. I think it was Patty who signed us up shortly thereafter.

We considered their offerings – the fees weren’t always lower than the competition, but we weren’t scared away because they answered the phone and offered better service.

We never did get a credit card from our new bank, but we are consistently treated as valued customers by people who know our name, answer the phone and return calls. What more could you want?

Heck, one day before the bank was open, I was at the ATM when an employee recognized me, knew they had checks for us, and opened the door to give them to us. It was just one of many times I felt good about our choice.

Oh and if you stop in on Fridays at the Bank of Akron on Main Street, they have McDuffie’s shortbread.

(Joe Genco places a premium on service – that’s why his mobile phone is on his New England Financial business card.)

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