Craig Metz, the marketing chief at United Community Banks (UCBI), says that until a few years ago, his bank's staff was doing only a "so-so" job of listening to its customers. Employees were not properly trained to pick up cues, so opportunities to cross-sell products and services were often missed. "We just didn't say to customers 'here's a solution to consider,' or 'can we set that up for you today?'" Metz says. "There was no closing. The customers just didn't feel like we were connecting the dots."

That changed, though, after the Blairsville, Ga., company began partnering with Customer Service Profiles, an Omaha, Neb., market research firm that works with banks to help improve service and drive sales. Following a program that relies heavily on customer feedback, the bank has sold 180,000 new products and services to existing customers over the past three years "even though we were in the middle of a recession," Metz says.

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