I'm part of that generation that's pretty comfortable with things like video conferencing. I'm not going to say the word for that generation. Don't make me say the word.
This week, some financial things came up which meant speaking to someone at the local branch I bank with. Getting an appointment with someone at that branch - physically sitting in front of me - would've taken ages.
So they set up a video call with another branch over 100 miles away instead. The meeting was booked for 2 days later, rather than the week or so I was expecting. Great news.
The video link was set up when I arrived, we had a natter, and I left having (pretty quickly, I thought) sorted everything out. All the paperwork was printed off for me remotely, and everything was wrapped up in an hour. Even got a cup of tea into the bargain.
To some people, that's a strange way to do business. To me, it felt fairly normal.
And (to a certain extent) I know this is a generational thing.
For my parents and their friends, good customer service means someone being there in person to help. It does not involve Skyping someone at the other end of the country. They like face-to-face meetings, and to put a name and a soul to the voice on the line.
The idea of video calls as customer care - the idea of over 100 miles to the nearest available trained person - is absurd to them.
I, on the other hand, would rather conduct all correspondence by email. I get unreasonably nervous in person sometimes. Talking on the phone still gives me mild terror - ringxiety, if you will. I was glad only the audio of my call was recorded for training purposes and not the video.
That fear aside, the conference call was fast and effective. As a system, it works.
Maybe my view on this is skewed by my work. Being a freelance copywriter means I rarely have to be on site with the client. I do it occasionally, of course, but it's not vital. So I know how much can be achieved by people working together from different locations.
When people vent about their local branch of such-and-such not having the facilities they need, this is the solution they're maybe not expecting. It doesn't have to be there in the literal sense, as long as it's there as an option they can access.
Why is waiting a fortnight to physically see another human considered 'better' than getting a virtual appointment in a quarter of the time? I know banks aren't exactly institutions customers want to take advice from. But some account holders are clearly missing a trick, one that their branch can easily do.