THINKING BUSINESS
a blog by Chris Barrow

Banks without people

A week ago I called in to HSBC in Altrincham to query the receipt of some standing order payments that were missing from my account (yes – I had checked on-line first but there was insufficient information). I have long-since given up on telephone banking with HSBC – a pointless exercise as I just cannot be bothered trying to establish rapport with someone in a different time-zone and culture who I just know isn’t really called “Dave”. So I walk into the branch – at least I think it’s still HSBC? Lots of ATM’s all around four walls – to pay in and take out. Lots of posters trying to flog me HSBC Plus. I very chirpy DJ broadcasting live from HSBC Radio with the very latest in easy-listening (i.e. Val Doonican singing Paddy McGinty’s Goat). And one solitary young man in a suit who looked as if he needed a note from his Mum to explain why he wasn’t at school. I swear to God he looked 12 years old – and completely overwhelmed with the demands of a legion of elderly ladies pulling shopping carts and asking him about their bill payments. I wandered around the back of the disco to find a counter with two windows, one person serving behind and a long queue of real people waiting to talk to a real person. Gives up and walks out. Monday morning I call into Lloyds TSB in Falmouth to pick up some information for Annie. Similar deal: 1. open plan floor with a lady trying to re-organise her standing order payments in full view and hearing of a queue of people. I’m next in line and find it embarrassing to have to listen to her personal financial conversation; 2. Behind us another elderly lady is shouting through the porthole at the counter staff, trying to transfer some money from her current account to her savings account – shouting (as we do) because she cannot hear properly and the teller is the other side of a plate glass wall – no attempt to get up and come around to listen to her; 3. a guy in working clothes and a woolly hat is explaining that he has dropped his credit card whilst working as a landscape gardener and the card has been gobbled up by his power mower and fired into a river! There is just no privacy whatsoever. Does anybody know of a bank that employs any bank managers – the old fashioned kind?

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