Banks be nimble, banks be quick!

There’s no denying that we are in a digital age.  Right now, it’s pretty advanced already – and we have digital experts and respected futurists making statements that in just 5 years time tangible media will no longer exist. So please tell me what’s going to happen to banks?  In my experience of banking with banks, both personal and Quickbusiness accounts – and in working with banks in partnership arrangements – there seems to be a common challenge.   And that challenge is, they’re too slow!

As typical with any enormous organisation – there are just too many hoops to jump through – too many processes, too many lines of management and therefore, everything takes too long.

For example – I recently made a complaint to my bank (I have to say, I can’t remember the last time I’ve had any reason to complain to them).  I made my complaint via email (which was never allowed to happen in the past – ooh progress).  24 hours later I received an email from the relevant team (it was looking promising) advising that my complaint was being looked into – attached was a lengthy PDF – and I was referred to the customer complaint process, informed to read said lengthy PDF, and advised that I’d receive a written response, together with a hard copy of the lengthy complaints process brochure within 14 days.  (It couldn’t be emailed in case someone intercepted the email).

I then queried why it was going to take 14 days to respond – to be advised that it was procedure and if I read page 14 of the Customer Complaint Process brochure, it was clearly documented – blah, blah, blah.

Now as a small business – highly responsive to clients, I can’t for one minute imagine asking a client to wait 14 days for anything – let alone to address a service recovery procedure.  It just a) wouldn’t  and b) couldn’t happen.

As a small business, we don’t have a Customer Response Team (probably a team of a minimum of 20 perhaps, even 80+?).  Instead, we have a small team that does everything they can to deliver services and service to our clients.   And let me tell you, there’s no ‘we’ll get back to you in 14 days’ amongst our vocabulary.

So in an age where everyone expects high levels of responsiveness and service (after all technology has enabled it – right! and so we do out best to keep up) we just sit back and accept the prehistoric practices of banks.

It must be hugely frustrating to work in a bank and want to make a difference – red tape, bureaucracy, 5000 meetings and procedures to work through, 150 different types of line management decision makers – yet no real empowerment to actually DO anything.  By the time a decision is made, the opportunity is probably lost.

I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago about ‘keeping things simple’ and for those businesses that do so – they’ll have cracked it.

What I’m hoping for is a bank to perform as if it was a nimble and responsive small business.  Quick decisions, minimising red tape, form filling and bureaucracy.  I saw on the tube the other day, an advertisement for – ok the maximum lending is £400 – but everything is done online – and they’ve even made a mobile app for it, so you can order from your phone.

The large high street banks certainly have considerable budgets to create the right vehicle – so why don’t they take a look at offering a truly online, responsive, non bureaucratic, decision making off-shoot - small, nimble, responsive, immediate decisions – online, convenient. (A small business within a big business without all the red tape).  Instead of ploughing their money into ‘candid’ and expensive advertising campaigns that push dated information and ideas down out throats.

I’m sure there are nimble divisions such as I desire within banking groups – but are they truly independent - or still dogged by the shadow of the ‘brand’ – and all the stifling controls that come with it.

There have been some success stories – First Direct service was the first to really look at servicing clients in a different way.  And more recently, I notice that Santander are really pushing responsiveness – opening business accounts via the telephone within hours and online loan applications – immediate decisions and money in your account within 4 days!

In my opinion banks should get real and close to what is really important to the majority of their customers (and let’s face it, we’re not all big commercial companies hindered by the same prehistoric processes) – look at the true business demographics.

“What’s important to busy people and small businesses” are simple questions that banks may spend fortunes on market research to understand but certainly don’t gear themselves up to servicing very well.  To put it simply, we’re looking for services that help rather than hinder.

I’m waiting for a new solution to banking – a solution such as the one I saw on the tube – but with a broader range of services, a banking solution that really does understand what’s important to people and small businesses in this day and age. Wake up - its 2010 not 1910.

Times have changed – and all businesses have to appreciate that and get on board with the what’s happening right now in order to succeed in this digital future.  I’ve said it before – small businesses, well leveraged and savvy are agile and responsive to change.  Large lumbering dinosaurs – just can’t get there as quickly.

Hope I won’t be disappointed and that a nimble and savvy online banking solution will appear in the not too distant future – and of course, the main focus – to keep things simple!

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Michelle Carvill is owner and Marketing Director at Carvill Creative - a graphic design and marketing services agency based in Maidenhead, Berkshire.  The agency covers all aspects of graphic design and marketing - covering social media marketing and website planning and website design.