Vernon Hill is the founder, chairman, and CEO of Commerce Bank, a retail bank chain based in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, that has about 400 locations on the East Coast. Here, he answers an entrepreneur's question about weekend customer service and hours of operation.
Q. How can I figure out if it would be a good idea to follow Commerce Bank's lead and keep my shipping company open on Sundays?
Concert Group Logistics
Downers Grove, Illinois
Vernon Hill responds:
First, determine whether Sunday hours would solve a problem for your clients. When I founded Commerce Bank in 1973, I decided that customers care more about having a good retail experience than how much interest they make on their savings accounts. Since then, we've found new ways to enhance their experience by, for instance, staying open on Sunday. We want to remove everything people don't like about banks.
That said, figuring out what your clients need isn't easy. Relying on customer surveys can backfire because clients may not even know that they want or need something until they have it. If we had relied on customer feedback, we probably wouldn't have established Sunday hours in 1992. Instead, we thought about ways we could make the retail experience more pleasant while differentiating ourselves from the competition. A company such as yours might determine if clients do a lot of shipping on Sundays and whether the extended hours will solve a big problem for them. Next, think about what kind of added value your company provides. Our main driving force is convenience, and so staying open on Sunday makes sense for us. But if you are primarily selling price, speed, or reliability, it doesn't mean a thing.
If you decide to offer Sunday hours, be prepared to provide the same level of service as you do any other day of the week. Your customers will tell you whether it's working. For us, it did work. Sunday is now our third busiest day of the week. More important, the extended hours send the message that we are there for our customers' convenience, not ours. As a result, many of those customers say they would recommend us to their friends. That's what you want: not just customers, but fans.