Business Personal Finance

Tuesday 17 July 2018

Bank calling time on lack of service is worth watching

Problem Solver with Feargal Quinn

The banks are going to have to make up their own mind on what to do and judge customer responses accordingly (Stock photo)
The banks are going to have to make up their own mind on what to do and judge customer responses accordingly (Stock photo)

Q: From a customer service perspective how do you view the recent changes in banks where they have removed most of the human contact and replaced it with automated machines, telephone hotlines etc.?

A: A lot depends on the type of customer you are. In today's busy environment, lots of people are really happy to run in and quickly use an automated service or to even go on line from the comfort of their phone.

The problem however, is that might not suit everyone, especially those that are elderly or simply not comfortable with the automated process. The banks are going to have to make up their own mind on what to do and judge customer responses accordingly.

I watched a very interesting video on line recently from Tandem Bank, a relatively new UK bank. In the video, a hidden camera crew took over a pub and replaced all the staff with actors. They then applied typically bank customer service levels and procedures to the pub customers. Some customers found their pint glass chained to the counter, others were asked to sign disclaimer forms before they ordered their dinner, while more customers were left in a shocked condition when chatting to one of the bar staff, mid-sentence, the staff member pressed a Dictaphone which played on hold music announcing "sorry I have to put you on hold, you are on to the wrong staff".

The final line in the humorous Tandem ad was, "you wouldn't tolerate this level of service in your local pub! Why would you tolerate it from a bank!". Clearly this new bank sees an opportunity to offer a much more personalised service which respects customers and seems to put them centre stage. What will be interesting is to see do enough customers respond and make their efforts worthwhile. This will be an interesting case study to follow and perhaps something that the Irish banks will be monitoring closely.

Q: I run a food manufacturing business. I produce over 30 different products, do all my own deliveries and am starting to get more involved in marketing. How do I go about exporting my product?

A: The simple answer to your question is that you engage with Bord Bia who have fantastic supports in the export market and will be able to identify territories most appropriate to your product and provide you with market insight for these territories.

However, before you think about exporting, you need to ask a more fundamental question which is, are you ready to export? You should be praised for where you have got the business to now, but there are clear signals coming from your email that this is a one-man band and that you are stretched to the limit. There is also the possibility, although I can't be certain without seeing the figures, that you could be producing too many products. As a general rule within the food sector "less is more" and by focusing on a narrower higher volume range, it would be easier for you to run the business.

For one moment I don't want to take away what you have achieved, but it would be great if you were to first saturate the Irish market place and ensure you have a very streamlined operation before you even consider exporting.

This would ensure that you have a robust commercial model generating significant revenues before you expose the business to any export risks. The other advantage is that greater sales and profitability might allow you to take on more staff in the business and decrease the current over-reliance on your own role. It would also be a good idea to talk to some existing producers who are further long in their journey and get some advice from them. My overall message is congratulatory on what you have already achieved, but with a slight caution that there is a danger you could over-extend yourself.

  • Send your small business questions to himself@feargalquinn.ie

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