Friday, 20 June 2014

The bank adviser and the librarian

A few weeks ago I had to visit my financial adviser at my French bank. What could have been a 20-minutes appointment turned into a 55-minutes meeting, because we didn't discuss my financial situation only. I actually realised that my bank adviser and I were faced with - would you believe it! - similar issues and questions in our professional lives. Here are a few of them.

First, both a public library branch and a bank one are a customer-facing service; people come in wanting to carry out a specific task and sometimes seeking help (I can see you thinking: "Do they get the same awkward customers as we do?" My bank adviser did mention something about feeling patronised by some of his customers; I didn't push this topic as it wouldn't have been professional for him to complain about customers to me) My bank in France is actually a small branch with only two financial advisers and a receptionist; it's located right next to a big supermarket.

CC BY-NC-SA Devon Buchanan
Information literacy
In libraries we are keen on our "authoritative resources" - we recognise their necessity and promote them - but we also know full well that for a quick answer we might be better off using a good search engine or Wikipedia as a first port of call rather than delving into the right encyclopedia. When my bank adviser is looking for the definition of a term, he does the same! Except his next port of call, instead of the encyclopedia, are the documents on the bank's intranet.
While doing that, he also made a comment which I could sympathise with: "We've just changed our platform because we've had to move over to Windows 7, and not everything is quite working the way it should be"!

"People don't know the range of services we offer - we don't only bank, we also offer insurance which is often very competitive but people don't think about it and go with the traditional insurance companies". Welcome to the club - people still mainly associate libraries with book-lending! This said, a bank and a public library service don't have quite the same resources to allocate to Communication... In a bank, it's not the branch that will do a huge marketing campaign, it's the head office and it will be nationwide. So in libraries, are we making the most of whatever nationwide publicity we can get, via every SCL and CILIP campaigns that grab the headlines, or for example participating in National Libraries Day?

CC BY-NC-SA Devon Buchanan

I've seen ATMs long before I ever saw self-service machines in a library. As an adult, I've never been a customer of a bank that still kept cash behind the counter. Bank customers are used to using a machine to: withdraw money, deposit cash, check their account balance, deposit cheques, print bank statements... That's coming slowly for libraries. Of course, in both cases, there are still some staff around to help.
My bank adviser told me about a pilot of a full self-service bank - with no staff around. No receptionist; financial advisers only available by appointment. He was quite concerned about it; for several reasons. One being that just like in libraries, some bank customers aren't quite confident using the self-service and either need or prefer to have someone to help them. Another being: what happens to the receptionist - do they lose their job, have to move into a very different one?
Again, things that can be easily applied to libraries.

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