More bank branches are being opened without human interaction in mind. As machines take over, customers are meant to enjoy faster high street banking, but what happens when something goes wrong?
Last week I received a cheque from British Gas, refunding me for an overpayment on my gas bill. Keen to stick the money in my current account, I hot-footed it down to the nearest branch of my bank in my lunch hour.
After wandering round the branch for a few minutes, I realised there was no counter service – just rows of paying-in and cash machines and a couple of semi-enclosed office “pods” in the middle.
Can’t I have some human help?
But paying-in machines are designed to deal with cheques, right? These days, you don’t even have to put your cheque and paying-in slip into an envelope. You just put them in a pile and pop them into the machine loose. So that’s what I did.
Unfortunately, that’s when the need for a real person became clear. The transaction was refused, because – as it turns out – British Gas cheques are “too big” for many paying-in machines to deal with.
There followed a laborious process in which I got a member of bank staff out of his pod, explained the problem, and tried to convince him to process the cheque manually. He eventually did – but not before he’d tried to direct me to another of the bank’s branches.
A world ruled by machines?
I understand why high street banks use these machines. They can cut queuing times and help customers quickly complete simple tasks.
On the other hand, there will always be certain transactions that need a real human being to get involved. It might be banking your collected coppers, questioning an unexplained transaction on your account, or dealing with a hundred other issues that those paying-in and cash machines simply “cannot compute”.
If it was up to me, there’d be at least one counter – with a real, breathing human being behind it – in every branch of every high street bank.
Yes, it would cost the banks more – but it would also help a lot of people out. In the wake of the financial crisis, banks are still pretty unpopular. If they really do have “human” sides, now’s the time to show them!
Would you like your bank branch to be fully automated, or is counter service important to you?