Picture this, a soldier is getting ready to go to Iraq for 400 days and realizes that he is out of money. He does what most of us would do, he calls Mom and Dad and asks them to put a few hundred dollars in his bank account.
However, when his Dad goes to deposit the money the bank says “No.” They explain that the account is closed because it was overdrawn by 98 cents (less than $1 US), plus a $5 bank charge.
The father explains the circumstances, but rather than re-open the account they suggest he opens a NEW account. Which won't get the money to said son in time for him to deploy.
This isn't an abstract story, many people who read this blog will know Shel Holtz. He has a very influential blog and podcast about public relations that is read and heard by people all around the world. Read what he has to say about the disconnect between WaMU's advertising and its actual practices.
I had a direct experience with the gap between hype and reality this past week with Washington Mutual (WaMu), the bank that positions itself as the human, caring back, drawing a line between their casual approach and the stiff, hidebound demeanor of the other guys.
This looks like a great opportunity for USAA (a military banking and insurance company, headquartered here in San Antonio) to step in and show how it can really shine.
Corporate Policies vs. Values
I wrote in Shel's comments that while corporate policies and rules are often helpful, it is more important to have a strong set of corporate values. When you have strong values that are understood all the way down to the line manager, than making decisions like these become easy. Decisions about marketing, public relations and other creative also become a no-brainer.
It looks like WaMU put the cart before the horse.
Running a company from values perspective empowers the employees to do the right thing and build strong relationships with customers.
I first wrote a set of steps to start from values-based key messages in an organization last year when I was helping a client do just that. These can also be extended to the line staff in say, a bank. Are you listening WaMU?
4 Steps to Values-Based Key Messages
- Formulate your values in short, easy-to-remember statements
- Integrate your values into the corporate culture by using every opportunity to compare what you do (jobs and initiatives) with what you say you believe and adjust accordingly
- Align new and old initiatives with the claims you make about your company, if you say you believe in customer service, generate examples of how you do that
- Communicate these ingrained values by making a values statement, providing and fact and giving an example:
KEY MESSAGE = Values Statement/Claim + Fact + Example
You can begin this process by making a matrix with your key values at the top, each team member can add his or her activities under the values statement with which they best fit, then you can explore real-world examples of how your organization lives out these values.
What do you think? Do you think that empowering line employees with clear values is something companies should consider?
UPDATE: USAA Responds to Shel's post and offers help. See Mike's comment:
- Shel, Talk about a punch in the gut! Sorry to hear about your son’s banking experience. USAA would love to see if Ben qualifies for USAA membership and then help him get things squared away. We’ve got banking and deployment experts standing by to help but we need a little more info from you or Ben so we can make sure he gets hooked up with the team that values his service and sacrifice and “knows what it means to serve.” If he hasn’t already left the country please let him know he can call our Deployment Team at 1-877-233-7569 or if he’s already down range and has access to the internet he can go to http://www.usaa.com to become a member. Standing by to help!
Mike Kelly, USAA (25-year Air Force veteran)
Photo of troops deploying to Iraq by blackmonam
tags: Iraq, WaMU, USAA, Shel+Holtz, Values, Key+Message