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At Your Service

Unsurprisingly, working for a software house specialising in Core Banking systems, we spend a fair proportion of our time talking about customer service and what banking customers really want from their bank. During one of these conversations - the subject turned to who do you bank with, how long have you been there and why. The first two questions are obviously easy to answer, but the third had me stumped for a while.

In the UK, it is often cited that people are more likely to leave their partner than to change their bank account, so it it just because of inertia that I have stayed with the same bank for more than 10 years ? Am I unhappy with the service I received, but just not unhappy enough to go through the hassle of changing everything over. The answer is no - by and large, I'm very happy with my bank.

They are not the cheapest. They have no branch network. They don't have a flashy internet banking portal and they certainly don't have any kind of mobile banking capability - so what is it that keeps me there ? The answer is that I know exactly how to get hold of them when I need them, and they don't bug me. The fact that they have hardly ever made a mistake helps too. I want my bank to be invisible.

There seems to be a lot of talk of transforming the branch into some inviting environment where people are enticed off the high street to talk to their bank about financial planning and the products they might need. If I have to go to a branch, it is a complete pain. I would much rather sort it out with a quick phone call or via a simple web transaction.

We bought a new property last year in the other end of the country and the whole transaction took place without seeing a soul (apart from the estate agent, who is fairly difficult to avoid). The whole experience was seemless, everything managed by the odd phone call and the services of Her Majesty's Post Office.

A lot of the conversations about service tend to lead on to building a relationship with your customer, understanding what stage of life they are at, understanding their needs all so that you can build up to offering them the product of their dreams. I'm sorry, I don't want a relationship with my bank any more than I want a relationship with my plumber, and someone deciding that what I really need to make my life complete is accidental death insurance because the computer says so is not my idea of good service.

The point is that everyone has different expectations and needs from their bank account, and I'm fully aware that I may not be representative of the public at large, but how are you going to detect that I just want to be left alone and tailor your service accordingly ?


Comments: (6)

Alexander De Lange
Alexander De Lange - Aurelia Financial Consultants cc - Johannesburg 06 June, 2011, 05:33Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Refreshing! As long as too many banks still cannot get the basics right (booking the correct items at the right time, delivering reasonably understandable overviews of this and being there when the customer needs them to be, with enough readily available 'knowledge' to serve the customer's basic purpose), let them please concentrate on that, rather than creating 'dazzle' to hide the fact that the basics ain't workin'! 

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 06 June, 2011, 08:52Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

And you can extend the analogy to social media... I'm as likely to want to interact with my bank via facebook/twitter/etc as I am my plumber.

If my plumber tried to "befriend" me, I'd get a new plumber.

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 06 June, 2011, 09:56Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I'd be more than happy if banks simply get their house adequately in order to respond quickly and coherently to my telephone calls and emails instead of trying to "build relationships" with me over social networks. I see more of an unobstrusive role for them in social media where they pick up the general sentiment as expressed in updates / tweets about them and fix what's not working internally. Anything more at this stage does appear, as Alexander d L says, to be efforts designed to "hide the fact that the basics ain't workin'!"  

Chris Errington
Chris Errington - None - London 06 June, 2011, 16:23Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

This is a good point and I think perspective in general.  My best service providers are the ones that don't talk to me - BUT I can easily talk to them.  It's a pull relationship and that works fine for me.

I have to say that after over 30 years, my bank remains on a pull relationship and service is great, even if I never can remember my memorable word.

Martin Bailey
Martin Bailey - Temenos - Hemel Hempstead 09 June, 2011, 10:34Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Thanks for the comments. There is a UK survey which posts how satisfied users are with their bank. One particular institution does very well every year and several large banks do very poorly. It tends to be the same ones, so why isn't there a mass exodus in favour of the bank offering better service? Just how much do people value good service?

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 09 June, 2011, 13:35Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

@Martin B:

IMHO, a typical bank customer values good service. However, account switching involves a lot of friction, so bad service won't necessarily result in an exodus. But it could lead to reduced revenues when dissatisfied customers divert more of their banking to other banks that give better service - like I did recently. For example, by moving a substantial part of their balance to another bank, they could deprive a bank of lucrative float income.  

Martin Bailey

Martin Bailey

Technology Product Director


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29 Nov 2010


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