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By Matt Timmins | Published Feb 27, 2013

Fans Not Customers by Vernon Hill

Vernon Hill, co-founder of Metro Bank, sets out to convince his reader that in business it is always better to have fans than customers. For Mr Hill, being ahead of the game in service means winning the game – it is better to compete on service than price.

Beginning by plainly stating that this is “not a book about banking”, Mr Hill’s language and style are accommodating and nodding to his own service-focused business ethos. Indeed, his personable prose style in itself succeeds in demonstrating how “getting one on-side” can ease the building of a relationship. Through his matter-of-fact narratives, you begin to relate to his accessibility and openness.

Mr Hill’s method is refreshingly to the point with chapters as directly titled as: Putting the ‘Grand’ in Grand Openings; Five Ways to Amaze; and No Stupid Rules. The chapters roughly align with a biography of Metro Bank, detailing the ideas behind the conception of the company, to implementation and the culture created to fulfil the vision. Ranging from the grandiose and profound, Retail + Entertainment = Metro Bank, to the seemingly obscure: You can bring your dogs into our stores. Dogs have become members of the family – you wouldn’t chain your children to the tree outside. The chapter that discusses the opening of Metro Bank in London is a fascinating read, and a great insight into how Mr Hill envisaged his brand’s culture would interact with the first customer at the very first point of contact.

Much of the book deals with examples of how Metro Bank, or operations with a similar customer focus, have distanced themselves from their competitors by going the extra mile, but it is the overarching desire to accommodate the customer in every possible way that is the real message. It is all part of the package and this book is littered with nuggets of sound advice and public relations commandments that really would not look overly self-important carved into stone, such as ‘I say to new employees: everything you do, everyday, makes the brand weaker or stronger’.

There are masses of books on service and brand culture and Mr Hill and Metro Bank’s success tell us that if we get the principles correct, they work anywhere. For those looking for an alternate way of approaching service, this book will prove rich pickings. For those who have already recognised the commercial virtues of creating emotional attachments in their customer base, the book is brimming with reminders as to why that practice is so valuable.

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