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O'TOOLE: Embracing the Golden Rule

• Sep 6, 2017 at 12:00 PM

I became a Huntington Bank customer in February. Since the Meijer location is closest to my house, that’s where I always do my banking. That’s where I met Cameron, a former Relationship Banker. There was something special about him from the first, a je ne sais quoi that made me pause and take notice.

Every time I went into Meijer, Cameron would smile, say hello and ask how I was, even if I didn’t stop at the bank. A lot of good people in customer service do that, I guess, but Cameron made me feel like more than just another customer. He made me feel like a person he cared about. His smile was genuine and warm. It was a smile I could feel, I smile I couldn’t help but return. Relationship Banker was the perfect title for him.

I never enjoyed banking until Cameron. I never walked away from a bank with a grin on my face. What magical powers did Cameron possess? Sure, the fact that he looked a bit like a young Elvis certainly helped. But it was so much more than that. I decided to have a talk with him to find out what customer service voodoo spells he was casting.

He was happy to sit down with me in his office for a talk. He thanked me for thinking of him for my column. I was the one thankful for the opportunity to have someone other than my boring self to write about — readers probably are, too.

Cameron graduated from Grand Haven High School in 2011 and went off to Central Michigan University to study business. In 2012, when he was a 20-year-old sophomore, he was diagnosed with cancer. It began as testicular cancer, but by the time he was diagnosed it had spread to his kidneys and parts of his lungs. When I pointed out that he had been very young to have cancer and undergo chemotherapy, Cameron said that he had youth on his side and was more worried about the older patients receiving treatment with him, because they didn’t have the energy he did to help them bounce back.

Now here is a person who, at a young age, knows how to find the silver lining. Not only that, but when he is seriously ill, he is able to feel compassion for others. This is a mature young man.

He was pronounced cancer free by January of 2013 and has been in remission ever since. He summed up his experience by saying, “It was kind of devastating...but it is what it is. I’m here.”

Cameron said he has always been a positive person — easy to believe — and surviving cancer made his perspective even more positive. “I got a second chance,” he said. “Every day is a new day.”

His positivity is what makes him exemplary at his job. When he’s having a rough day, he is able to brush it aside and focus on providing his customers with the best possible service. “If you’re going to go to work, give it 110 per cent,” he advised. “Give it your all.”

Customer service the Cameron way means treating customers the way he would like to be treated. It means putting himself in their shoes and doing what’s right for them. If a customer is angry, he doesn’t take it personally. He tries to understand the problem and why the person is upset. He remains calm and caring. “Fighting fire with fire doesn’t solve anything,” he said.

It’s hard to believe anyone could be angry around Cameron for very long. His upbeat manner is infectious. And then there’s his fabulous smile.

Unfortunately for me, a few weeks after our conversation an advancement opportunity arose and Cameron left Huntington for Flagstar Bank. He is also currently taking online courses with the goal of finishing his degree through CMU.­­­­­­­­­­

I almost forgot to mention Cameron’s last name. It’s Gioia, pronounced Joy-uh. What a fitting sobriquet for a young man who believes that when “you make somebody happy, it makes you feel good” and “when people feel special, feel appreciated, it’s just better for the world in general.”

I’ve discovered Cameron Gioia’s stellar customer service secret:  he embraces the golden rule in his everyday life and lives every moment of his life by that rule. He is a person of integrity and good character. This carries over into his work.

Roy T. Bennett wrote, “When you start giving, instead of getting, you make a difference. You can always give a warm smile, a sincere hello, a positive vibe...your attention, your time, your love, and kindness to those around you.”

Cameron gives all these things to his customers — except maybe the love, he’s in banking, not prostitution — and he makes a difference every day.

It’s not the same without him at Huntington. It’s a little dimmer without his smile to light up the place. But I am happy for him that he was able to advance in his career. I have no doubt that Cameron will be very successful at Flagstar. I’m sure he will finish his degree with good grades. And chances are very, very good that we will be hearing much more about him as he continues to build a successful career.

— By Kelly O’Toole, Tribune Community Columnist

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