The first ATM (Automatic Teller Machine) was introduced by Barclays bank in 1967 in England. ATMs are sometimes referred to as cash machines and most people see them primarily as a means for accessing the cash that they hold in checking/current accounts or in savings accounts. They can however be used for other purposes such as effecting mobile phone top ups.
For the most part, ATMs provide a service that bank customers find extremely useful. They revolutionalised the ease of access to bank funds as people no longer had to wait for their branch to open and then possibly queue to speak to a bank teller. However, as with most things, there are ways that they could be improved further.
Some of the basic hygiene factors which need to be met include:
24/7 availability. Technical faults do occasionally cause ATMs to go down which can be very frustrating. This is most likely to occur where banks are running their ATMs off ancient legacy systems. It’s important therefore that banks exert money and resource to making sure that their ATMS remain fully operational.
Stocked with cash. Another frustration is when you find that the cash machine doesn’t have any cash! Banks need to assess usage of each of their cash machines and make sure they are re-stocked as frequently as is required.
Clean. No-one wants to see the remnants of last night’s takeaway smeared over the ATM screen, or broken beer bottles on the ground. Banks need to regularly maintain the ATMs and surrounding area, to contribute to a pleasant consumer experience.
Accessible. ATMs need to be accessible to everyone, and that includes old people, people who don’t have perfect eyesight, and people in wheelchairs. In the UK, the Disability Discrimination Act makes it a requirement for banks to ensure that their ATM networks are upgraded so that people in wheelchairs can easily use them. The size of text on screen should also be large enough to make for easy reading.
Security. People want a bit of privacy when withdrawing money. The location and design of ATMs can help to reassure the user that no-one is going to be able to shoulder surf and see their PIN details.
Absence of charges. People don’t want to be charged for accessing their own money, and get quite irate if banks do charge them!
If all of the above hygiene factors are met, then generally people will be satisfied with their bank’s ATMs. There are however some additional features that may lead to an even better customer experience. These include:
Absence of queues. Most of us accept that there will be times when we have to queue to withdraw money from an ATM. For the most part this is likely to be during lunch hours or Friday or Saturday evenings. However, banks can provide extra ATMs do alleviate this. Banks need to weigh up the benefit of increased customer satisfaction against the cost of adding another cash machine.
Extra functionality over and above cash withdrawal. I’ve mentioned already that some banks now allow you to top up your mobile phone via an ATM. It’s also possible for banks to offer their customers the opportunity to accept a loan or overdraft offer. These can be very nice features for customers to be able to avail of.
I think in general ATMs work pretty well and are appreciated by the majority of bank customers. The core objective for banks must be to make sure that their machines are properly stocked, properly maintained, and are accessible and clean. On top of this, additional functionality can help improve ATM banking but there’s a caveat to this. Banks need to be careful that they don’t create a situation where a customer is spending five minutes at the cash machine to accept a loan offer, whilst behind them a large queue of angry people builds up, all just wanting to get to their cash!