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In banking, as in rugby, there’s no room for human error

Congratulations to New Zealand on their Rugby World Cup win at the weekend.

The Rugby World Cup has provided numerous iconic images but the vision of South African referee Craig Joubert sprinting from the field at the conclusion of the controversial Scotland Australia match will live long in the memory. Slow motion footage shows that the referee was mistaken in awarding Australia a last minute penalty that took the game away from a desolate Scots team.

Mr Joubert’s hasty retreat reminded me of the story of my great uncle Tom, who was goalkeeper of the village football team in the Twenties. Following a tense ‘local derby’, in the last minute of which the referee awarded, and Tom failed to save, a dubious penalty, both were chased across the river by angry supporters. Tom still retold the story sixty years later, claiming that certain villagers continued to blame him whereas the defender who had conceded the penalty was long forgotten. Human error is still important and trust, once lost, cannot always be regained. Bank customers, like sports supporters, have long memories. Tellers may not be chased from the branch, but any error can these days not only be remembered but magnified by social media. Reputation is everything when it comes to how your customer service is perceived.

Of course, if Mr Joubert had used the technology available he could have identified the error and avoided his ignominious exit (and perhaps another sixty years of derision).

In the past the question of who’d be a referee might just as easily be applied to a bank teller, a role that required accuracy, speed in making decisions and a keen eye but which sometimes only received attention when an error was spotted at the end of the working day. Now, things are changing - in banking circles new innovations mean that human error can become a thing of the past. For the branch employee the focus has changed to a new customer-facing skill set.

Glory teller automation technology means increased speed and accuracy in note counting, fitness sorting and the identification of fraudulent notes. It also means the teller’s role is a less stressful one and should lead to a reduction in turnover of counter staff. That’s not all, of course, more relaxed staff means more productive customer interaction, greater potential sales opportunities and improvements to the bottom line. In many instances the traditional teller roles can be fully automated, saving customers time and enabling enquiries to be dealt with in an open consumer-friendly environment.

The branch is still an important element of customer service provision. In the UK 57 percent of bank customers still visit their branch at least once every two to three months. Recent research, carried out by YouGov for Glory, demonstrates that these customers want shorter queues, easy access to information and improved personal service. As well as eliminating errors, best in class technology enables improvements in all these areas and when customers talk about you these are the things they remember.

There is one note of caution. In sport and in branch banking, technology can play an important role in eliminating errors and improving the end product, but you still need personnel with appropriate skills. Unfortunately no amount of technology would have made Uncle Tom a better goalkeeper.


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