When George Blankenship joined GAP Inc. in 1980 as a store manager in training, his supervisor criticized him for spending too much time with customers and not enough time cleaning the store.
That comment didn't sway Blankenship. He emerged with an even firmer belief in the power of customer engagement, which fueled a long and illustrious career as a retail executive with Apple, Tesla Motors, and GAP Inc.
“If you take good care of your customers, good things happen," says Blankenship, who addressed an Executive Series lunch Monday during CUNA's America's Credit Union Conference.
As for that supervisor? "I hope he comes to one of my presentations someday," he quips.
Blankenship, who also spoke at Monday's General Session, offered a wealth of insights derived from his experiences working for three customer-oriented companies.
For instance, at Apple and Tesla, “selling” wasn’t the prime focus.
“If you push things on people, they become defensive,” Blankenship says. “If you engage them and have an emotional connection, you’ll be successful. Emotionally engage customers—don’t transactionally engage them.”
Given their close ties with members, credit unions can thrive in this area.
“You make it possible for members to do things, like buy a car, buy a house, and pay for a wedding,” he says. “Let members know they’re important and they’ll be well taken care of, and focus on the member experience.”
Other insights Blankenship offers:
Blankenship closed his comments with a “what if” question: What if Amazon said it was going to offer financial services to all of its Amazon Prime members this year?
“What will you do?” he asks. “Someone is going to reinvent your industry. Will it be you?”