First impressions at UBS

First impressions count. When it comes to professional services, front-line employees’ attire, demeanor, and overall appearance can imbue customers with a sense of confidence and trust, or undermine their faith in the company to the point of taking their business elsewhere. Historically, banks have been on the extreme end of the buttoned-up culture.

Based on news reports, Swiss bank UBS is making first impressions a company-wide obsession. Its 43-page dresscode lays out expectations for employee appearance in excruciating detail, including how often men should get their hair cut (every four weeks) to what employees should eat at lunch (no garlic).  A spokesman for UBS said the goal is for customers “to immediately know that they are at UBS when they are entering the bank.”

I wonder, though, if customers care about socks going to the knee or the style of necktie knots. It seems that, once a certain level of professional appearance is met, a bank’s CX is determined by the quality of its customer service and its employees’ ability to tailor offerings to individual customers. Doing this successfully requires employees to be intuitive, observant, and creative. By circulating a document that instructs its employees in proper attire, hygiene, and grooming, UBS is effectively saying that it does not trust its people.

The problem is that you get what you expect from people. UBS needs its customer-facing employees to be independent thinkers, capable of making on-the-spot judgment calls and intuitive and observant enough to pick up on social cues. A 43-page dresscode communicates the opposite – don’t think, just consult the rulebook. UBS risks losing the spirit of the law (provide a distinct, exceptional CX) to the letter of the law (men’s underwear should be of good quality, easily washable, and undetectable). Do you care what underwear your banker wears?

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One Response to First impressions at UBS

  1. You know, my favorite part of that whole thing is that UBS claims that wearing makeup enhances womens’ personalities. I’ve heard that boobs do too. Haha…

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