Unhelpful Banking

September 16, 2009 by  


Once upon a time there used to be a place where you could go to withdraw cash and deposit your money in a friendly, helpful place called a bank.

A place where cheque books used to be printed on the premises, staff knew your name and you could carry out just about any transaction within the branch with the exception of ordering foreign currency.

There were no hard sales directed at the customers, privacy was a given and the Bank Manager had a proper role within the branch.

There was a hierarchy which sat rightly so and you knew as a customer that if you had a query there was a 99% chance the branch would sort it and quickly.

All the staff were multi trained so that there was always cover, there was a rota system for serving customers on the counters and a rule that if you were serving a customer and two more were waiting, you would ring a bell and back up would arrive.

There was also a ‘don’t let the phone ring more than 3 times before being answered’ rule and ‘smile you’re on the telephone’ attitude.

In addition there was an unwritten law that within the branch there would most certainly be a member of staff who had worked in that branch for a number of years who knew the majority of customers.

This would be a great reference point for all new employees especially when serving on the counter and brilliant for continuity.

The atmosphere was just more friendly, more customer focussed and you felt important when carrying out any transaction.

Fast forward 20 years and what a difference but not for the better.  The so called new processes seem to be in place to better serve the staff than the customers.

Bring in more machines, reduce the amount of actual customer contact staff need to have, centralise everything to a faceless call centre and ensure that staff in the branches and staff in the call centres have no idea what each other does or how banking should really flow.

The thinking must be that the more machines there are, the quicker the customers will be in and out and the less real people are needed in the branch.  The branches are taken up more with ‘sales figures’, ‘number of products being sold’ and quarterly reports about goodness knows what but it can’t be about what customers really want and the service they require.

Yes, there is a place for technology.  Online banking is extremely useful and far quicker to access information than phoning a call centre and having to go through an ID check.  Cash machines are great for when the bank is closed and the new machines in branches have a place for the busy person IF there were the staff to help customers learn how to use them.

However there are those transactions that can not be conducted through the machines that require the use of a real person and therefore a NEED for counter staff.

It is not a good sign to see counter positions closed down in return for providing another machine to do their job.  All it serves to do is anger customers and limit (as in a local branch) to ONLY being able to put on 4 cashiers.

Sixteen people in a queue waiting to be served by only 2 – 3 people is not good for business.  All these people obviously need a counter service. The annoying thing is this is USUAL.

Not only that on a recent rip to the branch there was a queue for the new machines (!) and clearly a customer was having difficulty with no one around to support her.  Add to this a queue to see the ‘front line’ people in the banking hall, it does not paint a good picture.

How many of the ‘corporate’ bankers know what customers want, how many of them actually visit a branch to see first hand what happens on a day to day basis?  How many bother to listen to customers complaints?  How many actually realise that customers aren’t happy?

Indeed how many of the so called ‘bosses’ that the staff call ‘THEY’ actually listen to the front line people and take any notice.  When querying the queues and lack of staff it’s as though the people in the branch are resigned to the fact that they can do nothing about it.  When asked if they can feed back to Head Office, it’s as though a veil is drawn, as though it’s not allowed.

It’s become a standing joke in our local branch.  People tutting, laughing at the situation but not in a good way.  One lady admitted she usually brings a book in while she’s waiting to be served!  The usual jokes about putting moving seating in with a coffee machine are just light hearted attempts to cover customer contempt but surely something has to be done.

Coupled with all of this is the lack of privacy for your own business.  People do NOT want their private information being discussed at the counter where everyone can hear everthing the cashier is saying.  People do NOT want their banking information being discussed in the middle of the banking hall at ‘customer service desks’ which are placed right by the queueing area.  People do NOT want to queue for ages at counters where they know there will only be 3 people serving.

The first bank to put customers back ahead of everything else will be the winning bank, but who has the balls to do it and in doing so admit that the banking world so has it wrong at the moment.


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