BY any comparison the banks have an unenviable reputation, unloved at best and evoking somewhat stronger emotions from many.
However, I had not realised that their customer relations had reached the levels that they had to employ ‘bouncers’ on their branch office doors as I witnessed last week.
The term ‘bouncer’ may not be a term which the banks would recognise, but the mode of dress and the size and shape of the individuals concerned gave the impression that there was little to choose between them and that body of people who attempt to keep order in the streets of our North East communities at weekends.
Now I appreciate that many have an axe to grind with their friendly bank manager, just as the damage done to the wider economy still resonates in so many parts of the economy. However, it is hardly the local Captain Mainwairings who have created the problems, but those at a much higher level, not only in terms of seniority but also in pay levels. What is evident, however, is that local images need to be repaired and trust regained and even if the banks claim that these employees are there to control the flow of potential new customers, that hardly does much for their profile.
A start might be in taking a greater interest in local communities by way of support and sponsorship to local organisations and events. The banks are major sponsors, particularly in the world of sport, with multi-million pound hand-outs to individuals and particular supports to boost their image, but that is not felt at community level.
Somewhat depressingly, a recent survey of support for charities shows that the South of England, again, receives a much larger share of what are charitable hand-outs than our own region, so there is an opportunity to redress the balance. Relatively small sponsorships to community-based charities and organisations can do much to develop good will and such a policy may also save on those payments beng made to the minders. And these are often bodies which in many ways support the families of staff and retirees. But involvement such as this does not have to be just about cash. Work experience, mentoring, help in kind, can all improve the local image. It is a small price to pay for better public relations.
But this is also a good policy for any business. So in these days of ‘feel good’, after so many public holidays and the Royal wedding, most businesses can spread a little happiness and improve their own image. The price does not have to be high, but the rewards can be huge.