Newsbit

Friday 16 July 1999 0:25am

Customer complaints force Lloyds TSB into kiosk U-turn

UK bank, Lloyds TSB, has abandoned trials of unmanned high-street branches after customers complained about being left with unresponsive electronic kiosks.

Many small businesses found themselves struggling to cope with large deposits and complicated transactions. The scheme also proved unpopular with elderly and disabled customers.

The trial, in three branches in and around Reading, aimed to lower the bank's staffing costs in some of its less busy outlets. Usage at one of the branches in Theale had fallen so low it was under threat of closure.

According to Matthew Bedford, consultant at Datamonitor, as much 60 per cent of the bank's costs come from staff wages, and traditional high-street banks need to reduce expenditure as telephone and Internet banks like First Direct and Egg grow in popularity.

Bedford claimed the role of the high-street branch is changing. "Ten years ago, it was a necessity, now it is becoming an advisory centre. The cashier's role is less important," he said.

Mike Shaw, programme director for Interactive Point-of-Service at ICL, said the kiosk marketplace in the UK is about to explode. He said: "In the last two or three years, the cost of developing a kiosk has halved, and the maturity of Internet technologies means you can create a kiosk project very quickly.

"The trouble at the moment is that we are offering a confusing proposition to the consumer. They have to get used to a different method of transaction. You need people on hand to show them how to do it."

Shaw added: "People believe that the kiosk will solve all their problems - but you need to stimulate the user. Customers have to have a reason to use it, there need to be real benefits."

But Datamonitor's Bedford remains doubtful: "Basically, the role of the kiosk is a little bit muddy. You still have to make the physical effort to go to a branch. In five years time, they could become a thing of the past."



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