St George, you only had one job. You Failed.

Posted by IAB Australia On January 26, 2015

As organisations strive to become customer centric in their marketing initiatives and digital platforms, Jacki James rightly identifies that many lose sight of the bigger picture, getting caught up in the details of personas, consumer journeys, content and data. In my own recent personal experiences with financial institutions, it seems customers aren’t actually that important to them.

You’re A Bank. Right?

Let me set the scene. It’s Saturday morning and my local St George Bank is open from 10 a.m. Beauty, I need $2,000 in cash to pay my builder. I’m sixth in a queue and witness a lovely approach from the bank manager to the person behind me, asking how she may be able to help him.

Customer: “Hi, I’d like to open an account”

St George Branch Manager: “I’m sorry Sir, we don’t open accounts on weekends. We only deal with appointments. I can arrange an appointment for you for next Saturday if you wish.”

Customer: “I’ve walked into a bank and you don’t open accounts without an appointment?” (in a very confused tone).
St George Branch Manager: “Yes, that’s right”

Customer leaves bank. WOW, I thought. They literally turned away a customer, having no idea what type of account they were about to open, no idea of how many other associated accounts this customer may have had, or what impact that single conversation would have on that customer or their own business. WOW.

My turn.

St George Branch Manager: “How can I help you?”

Me: “Hi, I’d just like to withdraw some cash from my account.”

St George Branch Manager: “I’m sorry. We don’t trade any cash on weekends. We only deal with appointments. I can arrange an appointment for you for next Saturday if you wish.” The exact robot response I’d over-heard behind me.

Me: “I need the cash within an hour, not in a week.”

St George Branch Manager: “We have an ATM available if you’d like to make a withdrawal.”

Me: “Yes, I’m aware of that, however I need to withdraw more than the daily ATM limit.”

St George Branch Manager: “I’m sorry, we can’t help you.”

Me: “You are a bank, right? You don’t open accounts and you don’t trade in cash. The Australian economy still uses cash right? I haven’t missed something have I? If you only deal with appointments, why is there a queue of 6 people?”

St George Branch Manager: No response. Smiles and moves to next customer.

Customer, me, leaves bank. GOB-SMACKED.

You’re a bank. The bare basic minimum means that you should be able to open an account and transact on that account. Simple. Apparently not. To add to my bewilderment is the St George Dragon Lounge. It’s a meeting room in the heart of Sydney, with a 12 seat boardroom, plenty of smaller meeting rooms, free WiFi and coffee machine, and it’s FREE for ANYONE to use. Sounds a bit weird doesn’t it, you don’t even have to be a St George customer to use it.

Let’s now put Customer Centricity at the heart. On one hand I have this awesome boardroom/meeting facility that I can use at my leisure, but on the other hand, I can’t open an account or withdraw my own money from a face-to-face branch interaction when a bank is actually open for business. You only had one job. You Failed.

I asked St George about this, so I could better understand what seems like something quite ridiculous. A St George spokesperson has provided a lovely robotic reply:

In relation to the matters raised, our customers can open accounts on Saturdays. It’s always preferable to make an appointment and we do try to accommodate walk-ins, but it’s dependent on how busy we are at the time.

When withdrawing large amounts of cash, it is true that some banks are moving to a cashless environment because of the enormous growth of online and digital banking, including internet money transfers. There has always been a limit on money withdrawals from ATMs due to security reasons, but cash can be arranged from most of our branches. As of 20 December 2014, our Castle Hill branch is available for cash withdrawals.

WOW, as of a couple of weeks ago, the branch now deals with cash! That’s incredibly progressive of them. It’s a pity my request for comment wasn’t actually met with any answers.

So going back to Jacki’s post. As a business, think about your customers, their experiences and what their EXPECTATIONS are. I expect banks to do banking things, and to do them well. We all know there’s enough competition out there. The quickest of recaps from Jacki sums the actions for customer-centricity perfectly:

1. Help your employees understand more about their customers, and the intended experience they are supposed to deliver.

2. Customers evaluate their experience with a brand as a whole, they don’t differentiate between in-store, online and call centre.

3. Organisations need to remember that in order to forge more meaningful connections with their audiences, they need to be more human, and mimic a human relationship as close as possible. Digital cops the flack for not having a human interaction, yet, both of my experiences above have been face-to-face or phone ones.

Of all the industries facing digital disruption, going through digital transformation and putting customers at the centre, I thought banking had it mostly worked out. We have conferences about customer experience, we even have whole roles dedicated to customer experience tied to marketing & customer service, yet the basics seem to be ignored. All this, at a time where bank customer satisfaction is at an all time high in nearly two decades, according to Roy Morgan Research.

Please tell me I’m not alone. Have you experienced a gob-smacking customer experience where the brand perception is that they have their sh*t together, and you were let down? Help me to help them. Share your story with me. Please.

Valentina Borbone is co-owner and Client Relationship Director at Zuni.

IAB Australia

IAB Australia is the peak trade association for online advertising in Australia. As one of over 43 IAB offices globally and with a rapidly growing membership, the role of the IAB is to support sustainable and diverse investment in digital advertising across all platforms in Australia.