Small businesses are the lifeblood of local communities and the true powerhouses behind the UK’s economic improvement.
With reports that around 500 high street bank branches are set to close this year alone, SMEs are facing a real challenge. For many of them, their local bank branch is important to the day-to-day running of their business, whether that’s to access over-the-counter facilities or just friendly advice.
The more I talk to our customers, the more I hear of unhelpful receptions from other banks when businesses enquire about opening an account. Often viewed as being too time-intensive or not providing a sufficient return, lenders continue to underserve the SME market. This has led to an environment where irrespective of what the customer actually wants, they are increasingly being pushed towards digital channels.
The incumbents often talk about ‘segmentation initiatives’, which is code for taking away local relationship managers and giving customers the ‘option’ of speaking to someone over the phone. The business owners I speak to continue to tell me that they value having a relationship manager who knows and understands their business and is part of the local business community, not just a contact number to speak to a ‘representative’ of a bank. They want to know who their manager is and their contact details.
At Metro Bank, we know and understand that business owners are busy people and that’s why all our 48 stores are open at times convenient to customers, seven days a week, 362 days a year, early until late. What’s more, they don’t need an appointment to see us and with the right documents we’re able to open their account in a matter of hours not weeks. But it doesn’t end there, every business customer is assigned their own local dedicated relationship manager, who takes the time to really understand the customer, their business and how they can best meet their needs.
With more and more bank branches closing up and down the country and increasingly pushing customers towards alternative channels, they aren’t being given a choice about how they do their banking. We aim to give customers a great experience at every touchpoint, whether that’s in-store, through our 24-hour local contact centre, or on the go through mobile and internet banking – but most importantly the choice is theirs.
Access to the services necessary to make everyday banking possible should be simple and straightforward. Banks can and must do a better job of working with businesses to understand their needs and more importance needs to be placed on the end-to-end customer experience. SMEs after all have a hard enough job managing and growing their businesses – banks should be here to help, rather than hinder them.
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