When things go well: Harvesting lessons from great service at Chase Bank

Published May 24, 2010
Last modified May 24, 2010

In the world of customer service, we all love to share our bad experiences - the canceled flight, the forgotten appetizer, the terrible call center support agent, and so on. While there are many lessons to be learned from negative experiences, we can also identify and learn from our good ones. We heard a story recently from Brett, a corporate trainer and consultant living in Oakland, California. Her story highlights some aspects of great service. Brett had a bad experience followed by a great experience—both at the same company. Let’s take a look at what went wrong and how one employee took exceptional measures to set things right.

Here’s Brett’s story:

I received a check for $10,000 drawn on a Canadian bank, and went to deposit it. The Chase teller took the check without looking at me.

“This is not an American check.”

“I know that.”

“It’ll take about three months to cash it, and it will cost about $130.00,” she said, sounding harried, and still without making eye contact.

“I guess I don’t have any other choice?”


She took my check, turned her back, and left me at the window with a long line of people behind me.

She returned with a manager, and they talked to each other in front of me without acknowledging me. A senior manager joined them, who also did not acknowledge me. The senior manager too was stumped, and left the other two with, “Look it up.”

The teller and her manager searched online. Now I was fifteen minutes into the transaction, and no one had made eye contact with me. The teller finally looked me in the eye.

“It will take three months and $130.00,” she said, which was exactly what she’d said to begin with.

“That’s unacceptable,” I said, taking my check and leaving.

I’d had good experiences at other Chase banks, so I decided to give it a try at a different branch. The teller greeted me warmly (with eye contact) and asked how she could help. I told her my story. She said she didn’t know what to do, and would investigate.

When she returned, she said the check would take three to four weeks to clear, and that there might be a fee.

Then she spent ten or fifteen minutes reviewing the details my accounts options. She took out a flip chart, and explained the different features, to me.

I deposited the check. Four weeks passed, and I saw no money. I returned to the branch. The same teller greeted me.

“Hi, it’s so good to see you. How did it go with the check?”

“Unfortunately, it didn’t. I don’t have my money.”

“Oh no—it’s been over a month, hasn’t it?”

“Yes—actually, thirty-one days today.”

“Well, let’s look into that right now.”

She reopened my file. She had kept a copy of the check. She placed a call and was told the check would clear the very next day, which it did.

Let’s take a look at what went right with the second teller:

  • Honesty. The second teller admitted she didn’t know what the policy was, and would need to find out.
  • Sharing information. The teller also gave Brett a heads-up about the fee, and she let her know the details of all her options, so she could make an educated choice.
  • Proactive stewardship. When things didn’t go as planned, she took stewardship of the situation, and went as far as she possibly could to find out what happened and set things straight again.
  • Conveyed a “you matter” message. The teller remembered Brett, and reflected back the details of their transaction a month later. Combined with the rest of her actions, this cemented the idea in Brett’s mind that she mattered, one of the main keys to creating customer loyalty.

Although things went better the second time around, they didn’t go perfectly: the check didn’t clear when Brett was told it would, and she still got charged a fee. However, the teller’s behavior and attitude helped smooth Brett’s experience. Her honesty, sharing of information, proactive stewardship and “you matter” ethos made the difference between further dejection and a sense of deep satisfaction. Someone does indeed care.

Many times, the quality of service depends on the luck of the draw: the particular employee who’s at the helm, what kind of a day they’re having, or how much they happen to feel like going the extra mile. It doesn’t have to be that way—all the qualities the second teller exhibited are fully trainable (including eye contact).

Companies that consistently deliver great service know—and make sure all their employees know—the points to hit again and again so great service isn’t just a chance happening, but a way of life.

Have you had a great (or not-so-great) service experience or insight lately? Please tell us about it in the comments section below; or email and we might profile your story next.

Jill Nagle is a Bay Area writer, mediator and content strategist. Her website is