Dear Bank, I only want two things, look after my money and treat me as a customer

It’s been some time since I got around to writing anything, mainly because I seem to have spent the last four months getting on and off aeroplanes. All very exciting, Singapore, Chicago and most recently San Franciso. I’m currently sat in the station in Manchester Airport, reflecting that it will take me nearly as long to get from Heathrow to home in Yorkshire as it did to get from San Francisco to London.

A lot of the time has been spent looking into Financial Services and customer communications, particularly the relationship between switching to digital channels, dealing with legacy systems and the need organisations have to create a more compelling proposition, given the bad taste left after the series of recent financial crises and self inflicted humiliations.

Watching TV before I left for the US last week I decided that a lot of companies had given up and gone for the easy route of ignoring the problem and creating simple price based offers to woo customers back.

This created two issues for me. Firstly there were three adverts in quick succession for various current account cash back offers from different banks, each offering different percentages , the best around 5%. It left me thinking of the supermarket price wars you often see with Tesco and ASDA racing to the bottom now offering to be 10% cheaper than the competition. This sort of approach is fine for a commodity where you don’t care about customer service.

Indeed, if you are going to pursue a strategy of operational excellence, as the text books call it, aiming to be the lowest cost provider in your chosen market, implicitly you have to care about cost above everything else, even the customer.

I don’t mind this from my supermarket, I walk around it once a week, pick up my brand matched groceries, I don’t need customer service, I don’t even have to speak to someone I can happily pick my goods from the shelves, use the self service checkout and walk out not caring if the place was staffed by little green men (sorry and women). More importantly I can choose any time I like to shop somewhere else, I have no ties or loyalty to the company.

My bank, on the other hand, is not a supermarket and choosing to compete on price, rather than customer service and value seems short sighted.. or maybe it’s considered just to hard.

Secondly, once I had signed up for said cash back offer I was disappointed and confused. The advert said 1% cash back on my current account. Naively, I assumed this meant I got 1% cash for everything I spent on my debit card, not an unreasonable conclusion given the strap line of the advert. However there is a catch. The cash back offer only applies to selected retailers – of which there was a very limited selection, none of which I shop at. Furthermore there was bizarre part of the offer for cash back on spend at Tesco but it said this offer was not in conjunction with Tesco leading me to conclude the bank would have to analyse my transactions to provide the cash back.

Way to go bank on building trust, give me an offer that’s far less than in first appeared and then present part of it in a way that seems underhand.

That’s not the end of it, I also have a credit card with said bank, for which I get reward points every time I spend money so I now have a choice, spend on my credit card or my debit card and I’ve no idea which one will be better for any particular transaction.

This is where my frustration really lies. I think its pretty common knowledge that we only want two things from our banks:

  • Look after our money, don’t loose it, give it to yourselves in excessive bonuses as a pat on the back for rigging the interest rates, or squander it in some drug fuelled orgy – if there’s anyone i’ve not insulted in that list, please email me and I’ll add you
  • Treat me as a customer, not a series of products and give me meaningful relevant information, not another balance transfer offer when you know I have no other credit cards

So, my suggestion to the nations bankers is stop making more complex products, that’s what got you into trouble last time, focus on the two basics I really care about and maybe British Banking will again become an Industry we can be proud of.

I think my next blog will look at the subject of having a therapeutic rant on WordPress as I now feel completely refreshed and not jet lagged in the slightest – although I’m sure I’ll feel different at 5am when I get up to go to London again tomorrow.