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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

Playing by the Rules: #2
"Tell and Show"

seeing is believing, AFTER seeing is understanding

nutshell imageIn a Nutshell . . .

Wanting to do the right thing was interfering with being objective about the results, for this large national bank (currently in 23 states). Somehow, the employees were not getting the right message. They were hearing that they should do their best, that they should care about their customers . . . and that that would ensure fair treatment of every customer they worked with.

But the bankers had to learn that it was possible to approach the customer with the best of intentions and still not serve the customer or comply with the requirements.

To get this message across, it was crucial to explicitly recognize the bankers' desire to serve the customer well, while helping them to see how they could still go astray. So we told them what was happening, and then showed them how those undesirable results crept into their work.

Case Study Summary

Business Function:

Consumer (retail) banking, that is, traditional banking services for individuals (as opposed to businesses). The client was a very large bank, with operations in many states.

They Said:

Regulators and legislators had raised the bar for fair treatment of all bank customers. They were using "patterns", basically a statistical analysis approach, to see when different types of customers received different treatment from the bank. This was setting off alarms in the industry, because the intention of the bank or its employees was now less important -- all that mattered was the resulting pattern of treatment, the results those different types of customers got from their bank.

My Take:

The notions of "intention" and "outcome" had become confused. The bankers tended to believe that people who broke the rules meant usually meant to do so, and that as long as they were sincerely working in the customer's interests, they were doing their jobs well. They needed to see that good intentions that led to bad results would still be labeled "non-compliance" by the regulatory agencies.


The seminar included "tell and show" video segments, in which a host prepared participants to see what was happening in a customer-interaction role play. The tone was positive throughout, recognizing the good intentions of the on-screen "banker".


We were able to shift the seminar discussion from "what I meant" or "what I was trying to do" to "what I did." That aligned the banker's self-monitoring of their behaviors with the standards set by the regulators.

Do I mean "Show and Tell"?

"Show and Tell" is certainly an effective way approach to communication, but in this case it was much better to use "Tell & Show & Tell:"

  1. Explain the key concepts.
  2. Demonstrate how those concepts apply in everyday situations.
  3. Summarize the concepts and how they apply to what the audience has just seen.

For "Playing by the Rules" in the banking industry, front-line employees must have knowledge of specific regulations and precise procedures. But there is also a need for the banker to be able to judge very quickly, in real time, whether a particular action is appropriate.

This bank wanted its employees to make good judgments about appropriate behavior, not just comply with the letter of the law. By helping bankers to recognize some of the behaviors that are more likely to lead to problem situations, instead of waiting until a full-blown problem has developed, the company could head off a lot of difficulties with customers and regulators.

The video scripts below demonstrate the Tell & Show approach. Naturally, the seminar was supported with extensive material, presented live and in print, explaining the standards for conduct at this bank.

Tell & Show Example

The following excerpts from the video scripts show how we first set up, and then demonstrated, the problem of making assumptions about the customer's desires. This was a common situation in which a well-intentioned customer service representative, in this case a personal banker, actually steered a customer to the wrong product by trying to anticipate the customer's desires.

An important concept for this segment was that good intentions are not enough. This behavior still violated government regulations, and the customer could easily have filed a serious complaint.

The concept was introduced by a professional actor, in a bank setting, much in the style of an on-location report on your evening TV news program. This introduction was followed by a role play demonstrating how the banker got into trouble.

"TELL": Set up by the spokesperson

The spokesperson addresses the audience of trainees directly:

"When you buy a shirt at the store, you don't expect the salesperson to explain to you the terms of the sale, whether you have the option to change your mind about buying the shirt, or what government agency to contact if you don't like the way the sale was handled. But when you take out an auto loan, or establish a home equity line, the customer and the banker have to share a lot of information -- including a lot of "fine print" that follows basic guidelines, and legal requirements, established by the many regulators in the banking industry.


"Anyone who interacts with the customer, or who handles the customer's information, has an opportunity to make a mistake and commit a violation of existing regulations. The pattern of treatment is the issue, not the intentions of employees. The staff may give preferential treatment to some people, and discourage others, without realizing they are doing it -- and the fact that they didn't deliberately set out to treat customers differently will mean very little to the regulators.


"Remember, being discouraging or unhelpful is not the only way to treat customers unfairly. It is the difference in the treatment of different groups, based on irrelevant characteristics, that counts. If we are extra helpful to some people, and don't offer that same assistance to others, we are not treating them fairly.


"Being a banker is a fast-paced job that requires a lot of decisions during a very busy day. That's why some of the most common problems arise when bankers start to take shortcuts and make assumptions about their customers . . ."

"Show": Role play between two actors

In this scene, our banker has a customer who is an Asian immigrant with a thick accent. The banker finds it hard to understand the customer at times, and to explain things to the customer, and he soon starts to make assumptions about what the customer wants.

We pick up the interaction already in progress:


Yes, Mr. Nguyen, I've looked up your account. You've had an account here for quite a few years, but it doesn't seem to have been very active lately.

Active, what do you mean by active?

I mean, you haven't been depositing money very often, you haven't been writing checks.

Oh, no, but I'm closing my account at another bank
and I want to make my account here, at this bank,
my main checking account. And I want an account
that will pay my checks or one of those cards
that you can use to pay for things;
I don't have one of those for here . . .

A card to pay with? You mean a credit card? You don't have a credit card?

A credit card? I'm not sure. What is it . . .
you use the card to pay for things, and
it is the same as writing a check.

Oh, a debit card, on your checking account. Is that what you're talking about? Or would a credit card be more useful to you?.

I think it must be easier to just have the
- what did you call it -

Debit card . . .

. . . the debit card with my checking account.
Then I can keep track of how I spend
my money in just one place, isn't that right?

That's right. Of course, that means that you have to have enough money in your account to cover the things you buy with your debit card. You haven't kept too much in this account for the last couple of years, so you would want to be careful about that. If you are going to buy larger items with your debit card, you'll either need to make sure you have deposited enough money in your account, or you might want to use a credit card. A credit card gives you a kind of loan, even if you don't have the money in your account when you make the purchase. Is that what you want?

Is that what I want? You mean the
credit card? I'm not sure. Is that better?

Why don't we look into an application for a credit card for you . . .

© 2007 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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