I’ve just spent an hour on the phone with Barclays Bank and I accomplished nothing, except making my mind up to change banks.

I won’t go into details, except to say that in May last year I applied to have a couple of ISA’s transferred from Barclays to Santander. It’s now February and Barclays have only managed to do one of them (although not until November!), but only after my chasing them repeatedly, as to the other one, as it’s been so long, I now have to start the process again and reapply!

But that’s not all, I’ve been paying monthly for a Barclays Premier account for over 10 years, (that adds up to about £1,500) and not seen a single benefit of having had it, so I want to downgrade my account, or create a new one with my standing orders, direct debits etc remaining in place. But to do so I have to go into a branch! why? You’ll love this… because I’ve been with Barclays too long?!?!?!?

Yep you heard right, I’ve been with them too long… I opened the original account in 1985, so I cannot downgrade it, as it’s an account that Barclays no longer offers… create a new one you suggest… not as simple as you’d expect, to create a new account I have to go into a highstreet branch with photo ID?

I’ve had a Barclays account for more than 25years, if anyone knows who I am, my income, my buying practices, where I live, my lifestyle, it’s Barclays… yet I have to go into a branch to prove who I am, and ironically, probably to a customer service agent that is younger than my account!

Yet I can call Santander’s transfer team and do the entire thing over the phone, automatically including all my direct debits etc, without once stepping into a branch!

So I put the question to the guy from Barclays, “I’ve been with you for 25 years, I have several personal accounts plus 2 business accounts, yet to create a new account I have to go to a branch with a passport to prove who I am? yet I can call Santander right after this call and have one created in minutes… now, which one do you think I’m going to do?”

“I assume you will call Santander”

“You’re right”

and I did

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Usually when entrepreneurs start a business, they’re careful when it comes to expanding and appointing new employees, everything is risky, money is probably tight, but the workload is becoming too much, how do they decide when to employ someone else. Friends and families often help out to start, but eventually these favours can no longer be asked, so the entrepreneur has to take that next step. They look at all the stuff the new employee can help with, they check they have enough revenue to employ them and they go for it. They continue to do this until that ideal nirvana state is reached, when the company is so large or is growing at a rate that hiring new employees becomes an almost automated and necessary requirement.

But then something happens, usually brought on by external market forces, ie a downturn in the market, a merger between companies, or the orginal company founders no longer have the same vision or are so removed from the day to day running of the business that their ethos has been lost within the structure of “The Company”.

This is when employees and customers are no longer viewed as assets or investments, people that can expand and drive the company forward, instead they become a cost, a cash cow, an overhead that needs to be streamlined and made as efficient as possible. When this mindset takes place (it doesn’t happen over night), companies are on shaky ground, in the long run productivity actually drops as employee morale reaches new lows, employee churn increases as employees loyalty decreases so they leave and HR costs increase. The share price can drop too, as the company Brand can be damaged through employee/customer dissatisfaction being aired online, through strikes and walkouts or felt via customer/employee interaction.

While a company that never loses sight that without their employees and customers, they wouldn’t have a business, they respect and continue to invest in them through training and career advancement, engage them in decisions and make them integral parts of the business, recruitment and HR costs lessen as people want to work at these places (who wouldn’t), customer Brand loyalty increases as employee/customer engagement is positive… these companies will continue to thrive, even if the market turns against them, as their employees/customers are incredibly loyal and stick with the company through the hard times.

A Road to Nowhere

April 29, 2009

I was in central London the other day, I was in no hurry to get to my next destination, but it started to rain, so I jumped on a bus. After a couple of stops I noticed a tourist having a hard time getting on the bus. His English was fine, he knew where he wanted to go, he was on the right bus, he had money to purchase a ticket, yet he couldn’t get one!

Why? because you can’t purchase a ticket on this bus, you have to purchase it before you get on. So here is a guy that is willing to pay for a service, he has the money in his hand, he’s willing to hand it over in the most logical way, directly to the driver, the guy offering the service, but someone, somewhere (more than likely a bean counter) decided that it would be more efficient & save time, if consumers pre-purchase their tickets, thus freeing up the driver’s time & making the schedule run more effectively. But that’s no good to this guy, he has to get off, find a ticket machine, purchase a ticket then get back on, this process takes more time, so the driver decides that waiting isn’t an option and drives on, leaving this guy behind as he purchases a ticket!? Not a good scenario, the driver could have waited, he didn’t, he had a schedule & job to keep, the passenger could have purchased his ticket beforehand, he didn’t, but he didn’t realise he had too. So who’s to blame, the driver, the passenger, the bean counter? The answer is all of them & none of them!

You could argue that the passenger should have read the signs & bought a ticket, or that the driver should have waited, or that the schedules should allow for this, or that the bean counters shouldn’t get involved in the first place, and you could come up with plenty more reasons, but essentially this approach doesn’t work for a simple reason, because it’s been designed to improve bottom line & efficiency for the bus service & not effectiveness & convenience for the customer, do the latter & you’ll have more passengers than you can handle, which is good for business & something you can solve, so that’s a good thing!

Another example is the incredibly useful & easy to use iPhone app MyRail, that gives real time rail time tables & automatically locates your nearest station using the built in GPS. But it doesn’t work anymore, not because the software is broken, but because  National Rail Enquiries has stopped the app accessing their database. Why, who knows! So rather than allowing me to use an application that is easy to use and convenient for me, with the sole purpose of allowing me to know what time the next train is so I can purchase a ticket. They would rather I logged into a website that doesn’t work on most mobile devices, and when it does make it so tricky & time consuming to get the info I want, that I’ve missed the train, so decide to jump in a cab instead!

This example is madness, why aren’t they looking at the bigger picture, the opportunities are their… if someone wanted to leverage your business or offer a service to your customers that you’re not offering, don’t stand in their way, embrace the fact with open arms, they’re helping you sell your product and they’re servicing your clients where you’re not. If someone is that much of a fan about your products don’t stop them, encourage them, you’ve more to gain than lose!

The 3 T Rule

January 5, 2009

“Trust Takes Time… you will eventually fail, if you try to rush or fake it”
Brendan Mitchell