How can your bank help you go paperless?

Paperless, Not People-less

Back in the day, it was expected that a person would answer the phone at a place of business and help you with your questions. Automated phones with prompts started replacing real people, and customers just had to adapt to this new era of customer service. Some corporations have such poor customer service that they're known for being places where it's nearly impossible to "get a person on the phone" to help with a problem. This is one area banks could focus on in order to help you go paperless.

Gaining a reputation for having people in place when it matters most -- for example when you just can't locate a statement or receipt and you have a large shortfall in your account that you can't explain -- might increase customer satisfaction so more people might be willing to let go of paper. Treating customers well and generating word-of-mouth advertising is a very people-centered approach and it may seem to go against the idea of paperless banking, but perhaps banks can help customers most by having enough people in place to support the lack of paper. Whether for troubleshooting technical difficulties online or attempting to get a printed record for tax purposes, sometimes banking by yourself just doesn't cut it.

Making face-to-face contact once in a while helps, too. Some individuals, maybe older generations more than the younger, need reassurance about their money and holdings. Many seniors have had decades of frequent contact with tellers. Even when nothing is happening with an account, for instance when a fixed-income electronic credit or payment is just about all that's going into a person's checking or savings, sometimes touching base is important. Accounts matter to banks and letting people know that they matter, too, is often a lost art on the part of the bank.

Banks can -- and really should -- staff and serve paperless customers without becoming known as people-less or for caring less about their people. And one way they can stay connected is to provide numbers to call and e-mail addresses to contact in times of need. We'll look at other forms of support, next.