Yesterday I encountered something at the bank which made me really think about the way some services are provided. More specifically it’s made me think about how technology is being introduced and taking the place of humans.

As I’m sure many of you know, I like technology. It fascinates me and I believe used correctly it can help us do many tasks. In fact I’d say pretty much everyone is helped by technology at some point in their day. It can save time for many tasks and add convenience of access.

In many cases technology and machines are being used to replace people, making the experience faceless. In fact there are many things which can now be done facelessly. I can pay for my shopping at the supermarket on the self-service aisles, I can pay for my petrol at the pump and not the kiosk and I can withdraw money from my bank at a “hole in the wall”. All great implementations which make the experience painless and quick. These implementations are popping up all over the place all aiming to speed up the process and provide greater efficiency.

But is it always necessary?

These implementations often speed processes up. Withdrawing money from the bank is great, I don’t have to go into the building and I can do it when I need it. Similar with the petrol. I can buy it from the pump, I don’t have to walk to the kiosk and leave my car. Yet why is it I prefer to pay at the kiosk?

In all honesty that’s just a personal preference. A lot of the time I want something other than petrol like a newspaper, which means I don’t have a lot of choice. I’m also limited to paying on my card and not by cash. But some times I want to be served by a person. Deal with something face to face. Somethings just don’t feel right unless you deal with a person, somethings don’t need to be faceless.

Really I’m talking about the event that I was faced with yesterday. I’m talking about banking. Hold on. Didn’t I just say I like the convenience of using a cash machine? Well yes I did. But I’m talking about banking in the terms of going to the bank to pay money into my account. Yesterday I was met with queues of people all waiting to do some form of banking. Now on a saturday this is probably pretty expected. Except the queues weren’t for the counter, they were for machines, the counters were all closed. I promptly turned round and walked out. I’ll go to the bank in my lunch hour when I can pay my money into my account with a person at the counter.

I guess my point is this. There are somethings which shouldn’t be faceless, paying in money to the bank being one of them. Why? Because this kind of thing revolves around trust. I like to see the person I hand over my paying in book to type in the digits and stamp my book, I then know my money has been paid in. A machine means I have to do it blind. I don’t get to watch my money being paid in to my account. If anything goes wrong there’s no physical feedback, no proof. There’s no smile and opportunity to ask a question on a whim, and I’m pretty sure it would take longer or the same amount of time to use the machine as it would to see a person. Sometimes it feels like companies are saying lets do this by machine because we can, let’s ignore the interaction that occurs between our customers and employees, it’s all the same end product. Ultimately this can put customers off. I know I won’t be going back to that bank on saturday unless I have too. I’d rather go at a slightly more awkward time to do it face to face, gaining the reassurance of seeing something happen in front of me and not when the machine is emptied and it’s content processed.