I was in a Building Society branch last Saturday morning in the centre of Stirling – a rare enough occurrence on its own, but made more interesting by the conversation going on next to me.
The customer had a problem in that the Building Society had not completed a transaction as required. The bank teller (customer service agent?) was full of sympathy, concern and empathy, but despite their best intentions there was nothing they could do themselves; it was something that needed Head Office to be involved in. So what’s the problem with this; nice, helpful, understanding frontline service.
You know what is coming next. This frontline service is supported by a Head Office that is CLOSED on weekends. No staff, no helpline, no Indian call centers, just CLOSED;”We don’t do weekends”. Come back on Monday, probably after 0930 as we have our training half hour first – training on what to do on the weekend or on the numerous bank holidays, I guess. So great front line staff totally unempowered and unsupported at a key part of the trading week.
We can all argue about the causes of the decline of the high street, but if retail/service providers are not open for business when people need them, and are set up to make life difficult for customers, then why blame people for going elsewhere or on the Internet?
Which makes the launch this week of the M&S Bank a little more interesting. Another retailer, another bank, so what? But this is the launch of a fuller service bank, in store.
And what’s one of the potential attractions? The M&S Bank will be open for the exact same hours as the retail store in which it is housed. So longer hours, Sunday trading, evenings perhaps and possibly no bank holidays. Other retailer based banks will also be available in due course and have potential to help change the sector.
Now I don’t know whether to not the £15/20 per month for their current account plus benefits is good value, and it is targeted at a particular type of customer, but the thought of a retail bank that operates with more of a retail ethos than a banking one might well hold attractions for some people. It surely couldn’t be worse, could it?