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What Can the Banks do to Make Us Love Them?

Posted: 13/09/2012 00:00

Today it was Customer Service Day at my branch of Bank of Scotland. I know this because my visit - or if you will, 'customer experience' - was out of the ordinary. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that not only was it different to the other 300 or so visits I've made, but it was also the singular occasion when it was different in any respect at all.

Until now my weekly visits to the bank - exclusively to pay cheques into our business account - have been a textbook study in pleasant, unexceptional routine.

This is a business branch, so although it's in the city centre, there is rarely a queue and I'm usually in and out in less than five minutes.

The usual drill goes like this -

I press the button next to the front door to request access. The cashier buzzes me into the bank. I walk up to the counter and, with a smile, I hand over my paying-in book and the cheques asking, "Can I pay these in please?"

The cashier, always a lady, smiles back and replies, "Of course."

She checks the amounts, stamps the paying-in book and passes it back to me with another smile.

We both say thank you - that curiously English affectation - and I leave.

That has been pretty much been all there has ever been to report (save for the time a man came in looking for the Royal Bank of Scotland by mistake; my, how we laughed!). It's not a disagreeable chore and the cashiers are always polite, friendly, efficient and smiley, so while it's hardly the visceral thrill offered by, say, a wordsearch puzzle, I've no complaints about either the experience or the service. I've never given it much thought before, but I'd confidently say that you'd be hard pushed to improve on it.

Which is why today's events came as such a surprise.

I press the button next to the front door to request access. The cashier buzzes me into the bank. I walk up to the counter and, with a smile, I hand over my paying-in book and the cheques asking,

"Can I pay these in please?"

The cashier, a lady, smiles back and replies, "Of course."

She checks the amounts, stamps the paying-in book and passes it back to me with another smile.

And says, "Would you like a cup off coffee?"

Before I have time to assimilate this non-sequitur, she reaches down below the counter and produces a massive tin of Cadbury's Roses, "Or one of these?"

Now I feel not just confused, but awkward; like a 14-year-old on a first date. I've never been offered coffee in a bank before. And to make things worse, this is the pretty cashier - the one with the interesting glasses. Maybe I should say yes. I've just had a coffee, but I don't want to offend her. We've got on so well over the years; it would be a shame to ruin it all with a clumsy faux pas. It might be instant coffee. I don't really like instant coffee. Enquiring about the quality of the coffee on offer might make me look like a bit of a snob or even ungrateful. Would it be rude to have the coffee, but to take it outside? Or does saying yes mean that I'll have to drink it here, perhaps making small talk? All I've ever said to her in seven years is, "Can I pay this in please?" and "Thank you".

To be honest, I've never really felt the need to take our relationship to the next level. What would we talk about anyway? She must be almost half my age. Would she be interested in seeing a picture of my kids? Or maybe she has work to do and doesn't want to talk at all. I'll have to stand here, drinking superheated instant coffee that I don't want, on my own in the foyer of the bank, ignored by staff and smiling gauchely at other customers who wonder what I'm doing. And all the way through this sorry process, I'll be hoping that the world would swallow me whole until finally I'm able to leave with a blistered mouth, and the cashiers at this branch of Bank of Scotland will all talk about that strange bloke who was just in.

All things considered, I decide to skip the coffee.

"That's very kind, but no thanks, I've just had a cappuccino," I say, pointing my thumb over my shoulder in the direction of the tram-stop.

I feel it would be rude not to take a sweet. I really want two - one Cadbury's Rose is never enough I find - but I don't want to appear greedy.

Before I leave, I feel I'm owed an explanation, "This is all a bit... unusual isn't it?" I ask, as I unwrap my caramel.

"It's Customer Service Day. Orders from Head Office," she replies flatly.

I leave wondering who exactly at 'Head Office' was responsible for coming up with this hare-brained scheme. Maybe they really believed that customers on the receiving end would think better of them.

Well I do hate to disappoint, so in the spirit of quid pro quo, here's a testimonial:

'Interest on deposit accounts might be just 0.05% before tax, but in my opinion, the Bank of Scotland is definitely the best for your business if you fancy a coffee once a year when you're paying in cheques (and don't mind instant).'

Thanks for the Rose.


You can find out why banks run initiatives like this and why we're all going going be experiencing a lot more 'customer service days' in Everything Now, written by Steve McKevitt and published by Route Publishing, priced £8.99.


Download the podcast A Drink with Steve McKevitt


Or visit Steve McKevitt's blog Everything Now Book

 
 
 

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