If you are a High Street bank, the experience your customers have with your front line staff may be the only opportunity to personally differentiate yourself.

Reading Brené Brown’s research into shame reminded me of a user experience with a bank branch a few years ago. This is the bank that had been marketing themselves as “the happy banking” bank. Fair enough. I wanted to find out about homeloans so decided to walk in.

The conversation did not go at all well. As soon as the rep found out I didn’t have a full time job. Her attitude was “well, we have nothing to talk about until you get a full time job.” She looked bored. And I left quite disturbed. It was as far from a happy banking experience as I could get. I now realised what an incredibly shaming experience that was.

She was not interested in really understanding my situation at all (I had just returned from working overseas, have been self-employed for almost two decades, have savings and no debt.) She asked a few cold qualifying questions and decided No – this person is wasting my time.

She may well have had a bad (or at least a boring) day of course. I do have a suspicion that there was no conscious design of this customer experience. Any design was probably centred around the financial aspects of the products, the hard selection criteria, and the financial remuneration of the sales reps.

The point is that instead of empowering me through a customer-centred process,  the happy banking people gave me a good helping of shame instead.

And with so many other financial institutions all offering broadly similar products, why would I use this particular “happy banking” bank after this experience?