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'Education days' not impressing all customers

KELSEY WILKIE
Last updated 12:00 06/06/2014
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Concerns have been raised about moves by a Palmerston North bank to push customers towards using virtual banking rather than dealing with tellers.

But industry experts say the plans are designed to help customers keep up to date with changes to the way banks operate.

The Westpac bank branches on Broadway Ave and in The Plaza are trialing "education days" where customers are encouraged by staff to use alternative services.

Westpac area manager Stuart White said the education days - Sunday for The Plaza and Wednesday for Broadway - had been met with "overwhelming positivity" by customers.

"We've chosen specific days that have less branch traffic," White said.

"The key is, it's not about inconveniencing, it's about educating."

But one customer who did feel inconvenienced was Palmerston North woman Sally Johnson, who went to pay a power bill at The Plaza branch on Sunday only to have the teller reject her money.

"I had cash in my hand and they wouldn't take it," she said.

"A bank of all places - that is their business. It seems cash is coming across as a dirty word."

Johnson said she tried to pay the same bill at Westpac on Broadway Ave later in the week but was again told by a teller that it was their "cashless" day and to try another branch.

Johnson said she thought the education day was "offensive and very condescending".

"I am not illiterate or stupid. I know about the various options of electronic banking, I choose not to use these options.

"I don't trust electronic banking or anything like that.

"I prefer to use cash and talk to people, machines are so cold and heartless."

White said the term cashless was incorrect, as they did have cash on the premises.

Tellers would assist on those days if it was a matter of importance, he said. "If something really needs to be done by a teller they will do it."

Age Concern New Zealand chief executive Robyn Scott said many older people liked the security of speaking face-to-face to a teller.

"By moving from face-to-face to electronic banking, banks are at risk of losing some of their most loyal customers.

"There are also more than 50,000 chronically lonely older people in New Zealand, and as companies move into the online world, many older people will miss out on the extremely treasured human contact they receive in the form of library assistants, post shop assistants and bank tellers."

Associate Professor at Massey University's School of Economics and Finance, David Tripe, said the moves were a proactive way to help customers.

He said the job of a bank teller was changing, as they were moving away from mundane jobs like counting cash to more constructive and meaningful tasks.

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Banking ombudsmen Deborah Battell said as banking became more electronic it was better for banks to assist customers in becoming more familiar with electronic services.

- Manawatu Standard

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