Banking UX

The voice of the customer

The voice of the customer. Main image: Gil C, Shutterstock.com
Written by Chris Skinner

As HSBC closes branches across the UK, Chris Skinner shares some customer comments, not all of which make sense in the bigger picture.

I was pointed towards this article in the weekend’s Daily Wail by the one and only Duena Blomstrom, and it makes for great reading. It’s all about the death squeals of consumers and journalists as they see the last bank in the village leave. Here’s the list of HSBC bank branch closures this year alone:

HSBC branch closures in 2016.

What the media and customer don’t necessarily get is that banks reaching into the deepest and more remote parts of the country with a physical entity no longer makes sense. When you’re only getting 10 customers a day in the branch, having two or three staff there makes no sense.

Equally, even in larger town centres, if the branch is purely existing to serve the business customers and the business customers no longer deal in cash, the models are unsustainable. That’s why banks are closing branches at an increasingly faster pace.

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I’ve actually said many times that the traditional bank branch network is at least five times, if not 10 times, larger than it needs to be, and 80% of that network needs to shut down. This is coming true in most developed economies – bear in mind, it’s not the same in developing economies – and banks get the idea that they need a smaller physical footprint as they ramp up their digital footprint.

Anyways, the main reason that the Daily Wail’s article caught my attention is for the comments, so I thought I’d share a few highlights.

Why people want branches

 LZ Roberts, Falmouth: “Once you have no branches, once it is all digital and contactless, there can be no bank runs. Then they can introduce negative interest rates, bail ins and can just take your money.”

Chaywest, Leicester: “Correct, remember what happened to the people’s deposit accounts in Cyprus? The government took 50% of their savings.”

Manchesterblue123, Manchester: “Chay, the government took the money from savings accounts, but Cyprus is a cash society they just invoked a control law which meant you couldn’t make a run on the bank. World doesn’t need to be cashless for them to stop you accessing your money.”

Willem de Leeuw, Winchester: “Wrong, you could still have bank runs, it’s just that they’ll be online. Everything you say can happen with or without cash and branches. Going fully cashless is very unlikely anyway: if England withdraws notes then simply use other countries’ currencies if you want banknotes.”

So speaks the voice of rationale

Sinead, Belfast: “My goodness … the world is moving on. more customers are using online and mobile banking. i cant remember the last time i walked into an actual branch. If they arent needed and customers arent using them then surely it makes good business sense to shut them? wouldnt you rather they used the money saved from running expensice, empty branches to pass on value for money to customers?? catch a grip DM! your headline could be flipped. HSBC waste £XXXXXXXXX running expensive branch network which is only used by 30% of customers!!”

Evie, Vancouver: “I refuse to do online banking on one of my accounts. I have a lot of money (company) going through the account and I feel they can do the work, not me! Banks would love us all to do the job of the teller and they just take our money, use our money, and charge us for doing so. If you think the bank is going to pass on savings to you, the customer, you’re living in LALA Land. Hong Kong, Shanghai Banking Corporation are making plenty of money to carry the loss, that’s what doing business is all about – a presence. If I had a bank that was closing locally, I would move my account, simple.”

Chaywest, Leicester: “Yes living in LALA land, they will charge more for less and the banks will know exactly how much you earn and where you are spending and sell your details to companies that will target you through your spending habits.”

Here’s one from the not so tolerant guy

TolerantGuy, London: “HSBC push your call into non English speaking call centres. Almost impossible to understand their dreadful English.

Manchesterblue123, Manchester: “In fairness probably better than your Indian.”

John, London: “@Manchesterblue123 – In fairness he doesn’t need to speak Indian (incidentally the official language is Hindu not Indian).”

IceMan London, Hounslow: “@John….. to correct you the official language is HINDI not Hindu that’s the religion.”

Manchesterblue123, Manchester: “To correct you both there is no national language and 22 official languages in India.”

And how do the staff feel about this?

Sasface, Sniff land: “Think of us staff! We have been working for them for 20 odd years and want to give the best service like we always have but we are so short staffed there’s days where it’s so busy they are out the door and we don’t get a drink or a break. Then rather than being able to have a laugh with a customer we have to serve so quickly because the customer is tutting and ranting int he queue. I could cry most days! Therefore we try and get them to use the machines just so we can get the queue down for customers and staff. Customers say I come to the counter to keep you in a job when actually it doesn’t matter if you do or don’t as the top management will make the decisions regardless. Think about the poor staff – we don’t want to give bad service.”

I particularly liked this one, because it’s completely off topic …

James Bennington, London: “Oh you’re worried now? Just wait until brexit properly kicks in, hahaha … the Brextards are really going to suffer, they don’t even know it yet , that’s the most pathetic part.”

D R, Woking: “Yes, we should be worried when the investment banks quit the UK. Financial services fund the UK, without them we may as well give up. This has nothing to do with Brexit – stupid comment.”

John, London: “No what’s pathetic is dumb people like you believing that Brexit is going to cause all these problems when the system is in such dire straits that the problems are unavoidable regardless. Leaving the EU dictatorship means we’ll recover from what is coming faster than being with the EU dictatorship.”

willis, buderim: “Try blaming the global financial crisis of 2008 – from which the world has still not recovered – nothing to do with Brexit.”

I could list many more, but would urge you to just spend some time reading the voice of the customer.

Daschund, Carlisle: “HSBC – does that stand for HOLY S–T BLOW the CUSTOMER, let’s get the hell out of here!”

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– This article is reproduced with kind permission. Some minor changes have been made to reflect BankNXT style considerations. Read more here. Main image: Gil C, Shutterstock.com

About the author

Chris Skinner

Chris Skinner is an independent commentator on the financial markets through the Finanser, and chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club, which he founded in 2004. He is an author of numerous books covering everything from European regulations in banking through to the credit crisis, to the future of banking.

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