Barclays spends £5m on trivia

Oh dear. Since last October I have managed to avoid posting in my Dr Rant category but today I am unwilling to hold back.

According to the Daily Mirror, Barclays Bank is spending £5m “changing the way it talks to customers”.

The bank plans to revamp all 1,500 branches, ditching jargon and “out-of-date” signs.

It will rename ATMs – a US acronym for Automated Teller Machine – “holes in the wall”.

“Customer service” signs will now say “Can I help?”, the Bureau de Change will become “Travel money”.

Barclays is also outlawing black pens on chains, which it says are awkward for left-handed people.

They will be replaced by pens carrying slogans such as “Take me I’m yours”, which the bank obviously thinks customers will take literally as it has ordered 10 million of them.

If you’re not already reaching for the sickbag, how about this sign from the new style Barclays: “Through this door walk the nicest people in the world.”

The Mirror describes this as the “brainwave” of Jim Hytner – the same chap who reportedly “masterminded” the dismal TV ads the bank ran a few months ago (reviewed by me here). I love the droll way in which The Guardian introduces us to Mr Hytner as the man “who was responsible for the last ITV revamp but one.”

Funny how the coverage of these launches seems to feature Mr Hytner so prominently… he must be frustrated that people might think all this money is really spent to make him look good – instead of making the bank look good… or (heaven forfend) making the customers look good.

Of course, we’ve seen it all before in financial services. Abbey tried it a couple of years ago, preposterously claiming they were going to revolutionise the way people dealt with money – which basically boiled down to gimmicky renaming of its products. Many millions of pounds and a takeover later, it all vanished.

As the Mirror concludes

The trouble for Barclays is that this sounds like a bit of a gimmick. What customers really want from bank branches are shorter queues and fairer deals.

4 thoughts on “Barclays spends £5m on trivia

  1. Paul Goodison

    Well Barclays always have been the most arrogant and patronising of banks… so no change there then.

    I thought this quote from the Guardian was interesting:

    This fascination with making branches more appealing is a far cry from the dotcom boom when branches were expected to be usurped by the internet. Instead the business has come full circle and branches are back in fashion, though keeping profits up is still a problem.

    Perhaps they should actually try talking to their customers and developing products and services with them?

  2. Tom

    “Shorter queues and fairer deals.” Catchy. Hmm, do you think the writer for the Mirror might be available to consult with Barclays?

  3. Matt Weston

    I hate to be an apologist for Barclays, but I’ve always found the term “Bureau de Change” a snooty throwback to a time when only 10% of us had passports ___ and 5m spent might make a heck of a headline [*] but it works out at 3-4k a branch i.e. about the cost of the average new kitchen. Shorter queues? That sounds like what customers really want, and an easy answer. But I bank at both Barclays and NatWest and didn’t NatWest ban clocks because it couldn’t shorten queues? And isn’t it true that “people don’t remember how long it took them to get service. they remember what the wait was like“? From here, Barclays spending 5m on making the wait better and the English plainer makes more sense than NatWest spending 150m banning clocks. [*] your “Barclays spends 5m on trivia” beats The Mirror’s “Barc’s less bite” hands down by the way.

  4. Johnnie Moore

    Hi Matt: Thanks for comment and links.

    Funnily enough, I posted about the NatWest clock move as well. I’m certainly not going to try to say which of the big banks is the most patronising, that would be a tough contest to call.

    Maybe we’re in agreement that the proposed changes are trivial. My qustion to Barclays is: why try to present them as important, why issue a press release and why trumpet the £5m cost?

    Taken with their £15m advertising from the autumn, it strikes me that Barclays are preoccupied with glitter and I think it’s a distraction from the more mundane challenge of generating better service day-to-day.

    I also think it’s patronising, both to the staff and the customers. It also smacks of a top-down style of managment: we on high can ordain the purchase of 10million biros and we know better than individual branches how to address customers.

    Also, the notion that this somehow relates to a better conversation seems fairly implausible to me.

    Seth’s line sounds very clever but I don’t think it has much bearing on Barclays. I think the entertainment value of a free pen and a silly sign or two will not last very long at all. But each to his own!


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