HUMANS, PEOPLE, CUSTOMERS, USERS

By : Alex Letts , UnBanker-in-chief at Ffrees.

One of my obsessions is that the banks have really misunderstood people. They have massive customer service programmes, thousands of call-centre staff, 24-hour Twitter and Facebook service, and yet … people so often dislike their service. Why?

It may seem semantic but I think the problem starts with the word “customer”. I want us to ban that word at Ffrees. (I am not sure I will win that one.) Our users are people, human beings, often stressed to the limit over their money. They really don’t want to be treated as a “paying customer”, but as a person “Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself” is not a bad mantra. This money stuff is hard, every day for most people. Our job is, I think, to provide a framework to make that easier. We must not ever kid ourselves, or to pretend in ads that we will make the world perfect, but we can make it just a bit less stressful.

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The banks promise all sorts of drivel “we’re with you for the journey” (think: “until we can’t see a way to make money out of you that is, in which case hop it”) or “we’ll get your scarf back to you, because we care so much” (pass the sick bag), or “we’re fair” (as in, a bit fairer than before, and, if so, what was going on last year?).

All this is driven by research which tells the banks “what customers want”. But they ignore the fact that underneath it all, people are just people, they want to be treated as humans, and they want this money stuff made as simple and low on stress as possible. And they want to deal with people who can sort out their immediate problem, not fob them off.

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