Banks continue to look for ways to improve service.

The prickly issue of bank services and the fees we must pay for them always seems generate a great deal of negativity for banks whenever raised or discussed in various mediums. However we felt that two items which have caught our attention today were very worthy of positive comment.

BankWest has announced the launch of a rather innovative service in relation to cheques. Provided they are registered on-line users, customers can now view cheques they have written by calling up the image and details such as cheque number, account number, amount and process date via the internet. The service will be free until August 11 and then a charge of $1.00 per image will apply.

Although it is common practice for banks to record cheque details on microfilm, somebody still has to be employed to search for the cheque and its details with the customer getting charged accordingly for the time taken. In utilising this service, BankWest customers will find that in most cases they could be some $20 better off than if they sought the same service elsewhere.

We applaud Bankwest for this unique innovation. Not only have they found a way to further effectively manage their costs, the new service is actually cheaper and hands control to the customer.

Meanwhile over at ANZ Bank, management is again openly experimenting with teller queues. ANZ’s Head of Retail Operations, Peter Hawkins, has acknowledged that the issue of queues in branches is still a major one which the bank is no closer to solving. The latest experiment is taking place in premier branch outlets in Melbourne and Sydney where customers are issued a ticket and required to wait in a reading area until a teller is available.

ANZ wants to address and minimise situations where customers become ‘agitated’ and aggravated due to bank mistakes which staff are slow to react to. All banks are looking to improve in this area but Mr Hawkins feels that once ANZ finds the right strategy, it has an opportunity to lead its competitors provided that his ‘front end staff’ take ownership of issues and complaints.

Although one of its not so successful strategies – ‘$5 if you wait longer in a queue than 5 minutes’ – didn’t quite pay off for them (no pun intended), ANZ refuses to give up on the search for a remedy to this issue. We feel that ANZ also deserves some credit for continuing to press forward as in the long run their customers stand to benefit greatly from any improvement to service.