By John Toth
A long time ago when I was starting out in this business, I wrote a story about an ATM machine at a local bank. It was the first one in the city, and it was big news. You could deposit and withdraw money without seeing a teller.
I still went in to see the tellers. I like to do business with a human being. Bank tellers are always nice and can handle any type of problem. While they do, they engage in conversation, which an ATM cannot do, nor would I want it to do.
Maybe I’m a little old fashioned, but I recently saw something when I walked into a credit union that floored me for several reasons: It was a more efficient way of handling transactions, but it also took more of the human element out of banking.
After arriving at the hideaway near San Antonio, we went to Credit Human, which used to be called San Antonio Credit Union, or SACU.
Credit Human sounds more – human. There are a lot of banks and credit unions around, but this one chose to stand out by calling itself Credit Human. If you’re human, come do business with us – we’re also human. That’s the message I got out of the name change.
We made a small cash deposit to keep the account from being closed. It had been dormant for a while. When we reach a certain point, they send us a letter that by so-and-so date the account will be closed unless we do something. I always deposit a few dollars until the next letter comes.
While we were running around town one day, we dropped by one of its branches to make the rare transaction.
We walked in, and a woman standing in the lobby asked us if we wanted to see a teller. We noticed that there were no teller stations. This woman then became our guide and directed us to one of the computer monitor booths, where we would start the transaction by touching the screen.
“That puts you in line for the teller. Then, you just wait,’ said our guide.
What do we do while we wait? There was no physical line of people waiting to see a teller, and there were no tellers or teller stations. We were the only ones waiting to “see a teller.”
Sharon and I talked to each other, and occasionally to our guide, while we waited.
“What happened to Credit Human?” I asked her jokingly. “This is more like Credit Machine.”
I wasn’t being facetious. She got the joke. Perhaps she has heard it more than once. I’d like to think that it’s an original.
It’s also more like drive-through banking, which I try to avoid.
We waited for about 10 minutes in front of the monitor before a very congenial teller popped up on the screen. This teller could be working at home even, although I think she was at a business location that was handling multiple branches like the one we were in.
That would be great – send the kids off to school, get a cup of coffee, get on the computer, and start “tellering.” Just get dressed in business attire from the waist up.
We made our small deposit by sticking it in a slot at the bottom of the machine that lit up. Our guide was behind us to make sure we did it right, perhaps sensing our uneasiness. It was the first time we did banking like this, so we weren’t too good at it.
It’s like self-checkout at supermarkets. I stay away from them as much as possible, but sometimes it’s quicker, and the line moves faster. There was one time when the self-checkout was packed, and two human check-out clerks were waiting for shoppers. They got my business quickly.
But stores are about products, prices and service. A bank or credit union is only about service. That’s why human tellers work so well in person, not on a screen, although our Credit Human human was very nice and helpful, as was our guide.
When asked which branches still have human tellers inside, our guide mentioned a location quite far away as being the closest one. “This is the way all our locations will be set up,” she said as we wrapped up our minimal transaction and started to leave.
“I still like tellers in person. But I can see how this would be more efficient,” I said.
But is it more human, Credit Human?