My parents ran a small, largely cash business. My mum would make weekly runs to the bank on the bus with a plastic shopping bag of cash, on the understanding that no one bothered to mug a middle aged lady out doing her shopping. She would go to our local bank and see one of the tellers who would help her deposit the week’s takings. Her favorite was Debbie. She might even wait extra time in line to get Debbie’s time, for a chat and a catch up. That was personal banking. Then we got computers. They formed a barrier between us and our bankers.
I often imagine banks of servers, where the servers are not lines of Debbie’s, but lines of hardware, impersonal and rubbish at catching up on the week’s news. Debbie didn’t care about Net Promoter Scores; she intrinsically knew how to build a relationship with a customer. I know, we can’t provide that level of individual experience any more, but surely as we passed through the early days of computers, ripping the guts out of our relationships, we have to imagine a time when we can get back to much better much more personal service. Maybe never back to the days of ‘Debbie’, but maybe someone can answer the phone (when I can’t work out the web site) that will actually be able to anticipate and understand what I might need, and be able to make things happen for me. And wouldn’t it be great if the person on the phone could offer me additional products and services that might actually be relevant and useful, like credit limit extensions around Christmas or advice about moving cash into high performing savings?
Sure, the ‘one size fits all’ just doesn’t work anymore – we all know that. But how about aiming for a ‘Debbie’ like experience, where the person on the phone is supported by their intelligent guided systems so that they can focus on having a great interaction with the customer, adding value and building loyalty? That doesn’t sound that unreasonable, does it? It would undoubtedly make doing business with our banks a personal experience again. But in order to get there, one significant hurdle first needs to be overcome: banks’ systems need to allow them to step out from behind the computers and see what customers need and want.