Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

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Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

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Byline: David Roe

IT used to be said that you are more likely to change your wife than your bank. And when I see today's divorce statistics, this may still hold true.

My grandfather banked with the Midland Bank (now part of HSBC) and my father the same; so when I attended university and there was a branch on my campus, I opened an account and the tradition continued into a third generation.

Years later, when I was working in another city and where Midland did not have a branch, I committed an unforgiveable sin: I changed my bank. Had my father still been alive, he would have been horrified. Being loyal was one of our customs - and I was being disloyal.

Once a pillar of the local community, the bank manager, assuming you ever meet one, has been downgraded to little more than a regional sales manager.

For the younger generation, accustomed to faceless internet banking, changing a bank account is no different to swapping mobile phone providers every couple of years. The modern way has many advantages, but it often lacks the personal touch.

All businesses have been affected in similar ways. Just think what happens when you need to contact a company. If you do not reach a call centre in India, it will be a machine which tells you which numbers to press for which service you require. And if you wait to speak to a person - press 9 for this - you will be told that all their operatives are busy and you should try again later.

By this time, you are fuming and make a mental note never to buy anything from this company again. Call this customer service? Pull the other one.

Businesses fork out huge amounts on marketing, understanding - or at least they think they do - the various customer segments, what they buy and when. Winning new customers is one thing; keeping them is another. There is still a market for the personal touch and where smaller businesses may score over their larger brethren. …

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