26 October, 2013

The joys of ‘modern’ banking

Usually I do my banking at my local bank branch. This is situated in a smallish market town and is suitably old fashioned. It is very much non-open-plan, with glass panels lining the counter and interview rooms with doors that can be closed so that you can conduct your business in private. I like it there. It’s small enough that you get really good customer service yet big enough that all the services you might need are on offer.

Recently, I visited the branch in the city in which I work. This has always been quite different from my local—very large and busy, full of people, and distinctly lacking in customer service. However, this time I got even more of a shock—the bank had been revamped. It was now open plan. No glass frontage. No interview rooms —just open alcoves from which anything that is being discussed can, presumably, be overheard by all and sundry. And—the biggest surprise of all—upbeat music playing quite loudly throughout the branch.

When I was next in my local, the staff member who was looking after me asked if I’d been into the city branch recently and seen the changes there. I confirmed that I had, and commented on the music. She said the theory is that if music is playing, the customers are distracted and so don’t listen to the other customers’ conversations (i.e. don’t overhear their business).

Something doesn’t seem quite right here. The bank has been made open plan, which most people are unlikely to be keen on because, let’s face it, who wants to conduct their private business in public? So, to solve that issue, the powers that be have decided to pipe music through the speakers—surely a less effective way of keeping customers’ private business private than a closed door.

But why make the bank open plan in the first place? Is it something to do with making it less intimidating and more welcoming? But what about security? It’s pretty easy to threaten bank staff who have no glass protecting them, after all.

I’d rather you gave me good, old-fashioned layout and good, old-fashioned customer service any time!

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