Have you ever tried to scan eight-foot-long piece of lumber at a self-checkout lane? Not the actual practice of scanning the piece of lumber. That part is easy. But the actual logistics of trying to scan something so large in a space meant for nothing bigger than a paint can.

I’m walking up to the checkout lanes at my local Lowe’s home improvement store, pushing a shopping cart full of smaller items, hardware really, to construct a gate for my deck. Poking out the back end of the cart, by about six feet, are two two-by-four pieces of lumber, each eight feet long.

As I approach the checkout lanes, I can see a long line stemming from the…ONE MANNED CHECKOUT LANE OPEN. Not willing to waste time standing in line on a beautiful day, I opt for my only other solution. The self-checkout lanes. Four of them. All open. All ready for customers without eight foot two-by-fours to scan.

Have you ever tried to scan eight-foot-long piece of lumber at a self-checkout lane? It’s damn near impossible. Not the actual practice of scanning the piece of lumber. That part is easy. Line of the end with the bar code to the scanner – careful not to hit anyone across the lane – and wave it around until you hear the beep. The problem comes after.

Machine: “Do you want to bag this item?”

Me: No.

Machine: “I’m sorry, you haven’t placed your item in the bagging area.”

Me: *Selects ‘Do Not Bag’*

Machine: “Please see an attendant for assistance.”

Such is the customer experience at your local home improvement store. For my troubles, I should have just waited in line to be rung up by the one cashier that was open. Of course, the problem isn’t the fact that having more self-checkout lanes open at a home improvement store (where purchased items tend to be larger) versus manned cashiers is stupid. It’s the idea that someone, somehow, somewhere thought this would be a good idea. That this is better customer service.

Service Doesn’t Have to Be That Hard

My point this week is simple: this is what it feels like to our customers when they take the time, energy and travel effort to walk into one of our branches and be told by a teller (or a customer service rep, heaven forbid) that the question they’re asking can be answered by visiting the website or logging into their online banking account. For the sake of argument (and conversation), let us not just stop at those customers walking into a branch. These also include the poor souls calling our call centers.

A study performed by Accenture shows that nearly 60% of traditional banking products are still sold in the branch.

That means, if a customer – or potential customer – is walking into your establishment, or picking up the phone to talk to someone, they are expecting to be served. Enlightening customers to the idea or fact that their new account can be opened online, or a check deposit can take place thorough your mobile app, is a nice way of saying “please do my job for me” – just like Lowe’s and every major supermarket chain out there wants you to check yourself out.

It’s no big surprise that the face and usefulness of branches has changed. They have become less and less of a transaction hub and more of a portal to one-on-one, quality customer service and care. Which means staff needs to treat these as interactions and not transactions.