Madison — In the bustling Madison area with exploding growth and new businesses opening daily, it might be difficult to stand out in the crowd. By committing “random acts of kindness” AmSouth Bank is drawing attention to its new branch located near the corner of busy Highland Colony Parkway and Highway 463 and hoping to endear itself to the community.
“We regard ourselves as a relationship bank, and with these acts we actually get out there and meet people,” assistant vice president and branch manager David Fayard said. “We feel it’s important to go above and beyond as a brand new branch.”
AmSouth’s newest 3,820-square-foot branch opened late last year. Since then, staff members have been on the street meeting and greeting, pumping gas, handing out cold drinks, serving coffee, paying cleaning bills and distributing $5 gift cards.
“When we do these things, the look on faces is amazing and truly a pleasure to see,” he said. “People think it’s a great idea that the bank is giving out money, but it’s more than that. We introduce ourselves and invite them to visit us at the bank.”
The bank even had 100 employees out walking some of the area’s many neighborhoods one weekend to knock on doors and invite residents to see what the financial institution has to offer. “We’ve been hitting it pretty hard on a regular basis because we’re the new bank,” Fayard said. “We just want to say ‘come on by, we’ll help you.’”
He said the frequency of the random acts will slack off but will still be done periodically. The bank has involved local vendors too. They’ve spent a morning at a coffee shop buying coffee for customers, passed out colas in Wal-Mart and treated diners to free appetizers at the Bone & Fish Grill and Moe’s Southwest Grill.
“We want to make banking approachable and let people know we’re right there with them,” the branch manager said. “We want to build lifelong relationships.”
He points to the incredible growth of Madison. The new AmSouth branch is vying with four other bank branches within a one-mile radius and he thinks there may be another two or three in the next few years. There are approximately 30 neighborhoods, ranging from 10 to 400 rooftops, in a five-mile radius.
“It’s such a great growth area. The market has blown up,” he said. “Our competition is here and our goal is to provide the best service possible.”
Ronnie Smith, AmSouth’s Jackson president and area executive for Mississippi and North Louisiana, says the bank has performed random acts of kindness for other branch openings as a way of becoming part of the community.
“We pick up tips each time and try to improve the model on how we open and get the word out,” he said. “Our effort is to meet people and tell them how happy we are to be there. We get a wonderful response from it.”
With 74 branches in a two-state region, AmSouth looks at population trends and traffic patterns to determine the location of new branches. “We’re happy now to be on the West side of Madison. Our goal for a new branch is to give the current client base another option for what we think is a strong metropolitan-based bank,” he said. “AmSouth is in the top 20 banks in the nation due to its size, and we can provide the community with that kind of banking base and strength.”
Smith said the idea for random acts of kindness came through the company and its marketing advisors. They have been doing it for several years to support the bank’s goals of understanding and meeting customer needs and building relationships.
“The whole effort is to underscore what our goals are and to build relationships one client at a time,” he added. “We don’t have to just meet people in our offices.”
It may be done a little differently, but Smith says the random acts of kindness are also done at existing bank branches. At those locations, the efforts are called customer appreciation days. “It’s equally important to continue to grow where we are and not look at those as any less important,” he said.
Fayard said the bank is always looking for new ideas in trying to establish new relationships. He feels the random acts of kindness had to be taken to another level for the burgeoning Madison area. The branch bank’s opening event was somewhat different too. Billed as a community celebration for all ages, it included free lunch, games of chance to win cash prizes and gift cards for neighborhood stores, face painting and a moonwalk.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.