Size Matters!

Ah, one of life’s great questions – does size matter? In winding up my Dad’s affairs I’ve had to deal with a number of financials institutions lately, and the service I’ve experienced from them has differed markedly. The best service has come from Monmouthshire Building Society and Nationwide Building Society. I’ll come back to them and why I think they’ve cracked it later in this post. For now – let’s get the bad guys out of the way:

Credit Suisse – Award for Confusion

Credit Suisse at first refused to return my Dad’s death certificate and then followed up with a series of forms to fill out, each one duller and more complicated than the previous. Trying to find their phone number is like looking for a needle in a haystack, and the disinterested way with which I was dealt with kinda left me thinking I wish I’d found the needle instead and used it to gently stab myself in the eye.

National Savings – Award for Speed

After waiting longer for National Savings to answer the phone than all the other organisations, once I got through to them they rushed and harried me like no other company could. I’ve never felt hassled off the phone so quickly, each question felt like a total inconvenience to them, each request for more information met with a sense of reluctance and unpleasantness. I’ll wager the staff are measured on call times or some other dumb pointless thing that drives them to deliver awful service. I feel for the people in the National Savings call centre, from my experience it felt like a totally crap place to work. I realise that for most things the Government provides, we have no choice but to use them, but come on – you’re operating in a competitive market place here!

Now back to the good guys.

Monmouthshire and Nationwide Building Societies – Joint Award for Being Human

The Nationwide has a bereavement team. You get given their number when you first inform them of the death and thereafter, everything is dealt with sympathetically and straightforwardly. In the case of the Monmouthshire, I was fortunate to deal with Kim. Every phone call, every piece of correspondence was between the two of us. I was listened to, and as a result of listening, Kim was able to deal with my claim proactively and supportively. Thanks Kim.

The Monmouthshire has total assets of £742m, and Nationwide has £196,129m. Both are small compared to Credit Suisse’s asset pile of £1,049,165m, and the UK Government, which owns assets values at £337bn. And both Monmouthshire and Nationwide are mutual societies, run explicitly for the benefit of their members. Credit Suisse are a plc, and the UK Government is, well it is what it is.

So from my experience, the size and ownership structure of companies matters. It seems to make it easier for employees to exceed my reasonable service expectations, willingly too. What do you think?

photo credit

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

3 thoughts on “Size Matters!”

  1. I think you’re right, Doug.

    I think people in organisations act more caringly and responsively very much according how the organisation is designed and structured. It’s not an exact correlation. There always good and bad extremes because people are different and-people behave differently at different times,but in general I think customers enjoy the greatest human care and value from (in descending order)

    First division
    employee-owned firms
    founder-owned firms
    family owned firms

    Second division
    charities- though many small or local charities are in the top division
    government agencies

    The key issue seems to me to be the remoteness of the ‘ownership’, so in PLCs and government, many feel they are following orders of the system; a system they cannot influence that demands their apparent compliance above the achievement of any meaningful purpose. They are as much victims as their clients. It’s very sad,but quite possible to change with good leadership and better structural design.

    PS I don’t have full data to support the hypothesis, but if anyone can find some, or would like to sponsor a study to explore the hypothesis about structure, care and engagement, please let me know!

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