Banks are not the French maids of the corporate world

Why does the Commonwealth Bank have concierges? The moment you walk in the door a “concierge” greets you and asks you your business.

The bank seems to think that giving a sexy French title to what is essentially a corporate triage nurse is going to make them alluring. Eh, no, they are still a bank.  

Also, this concierge greeting system doesn’t work. When the concierge is talking to another customer, or at lunch or getting a coffee or making the most of toilet time and customers arrive they tend to stand there looking confused and blocking the entrance. The other day I even saw them ask other customers what they are meant to do. Thanks Commbank – now you are getting your customers to do your work for you too.

When the concierge reappears, they elaborately log the query on an iPad and direct you to a lounge where other clients are sprawled. I suppose this is kind of like a hotel lobby, hence concierge, but somehow I am not feeling that holiday vibe. It’s all in the name of the bank trying to convince us it is not a bank. I’m surprised it is not doing single origin coffee or serving bliss balls.

Of course, the bank is just emulating numerous of companies giving exciting names to bad jobs eg Public Waste Technician for toilet cleaner, Mobile Sustenance Facilitator for food truck worker, Gastronomical Hygiene Engineer for dishwasher.

Concierge might not be so funny as these but it is equally ridiculous. A concierge is a bank employee and a queue is a queue. It doesn’t matter how the bank tries to pimp this up, it doesn’t matter how long I spend on the lounge deep down I still know I am at a bank. Also, I am not entirely sure we want banks to be sexy. They are not the French maids of the corporate world. We don’t want them to pacify us with their concierges and their slightly uncomfortable lounges and their open plan offices for discussing personal finance. We don’t want peppy staff. We want bank tellers.  

I suspect this is a move by the bank to limit costs. To employ very low-cost, non-teller staff to stand around, to give the impression of being looked after while in fact being treated worse. Then dress it up as personalised service and an exotically European title. Commonwealth Bank have saved half a salary and we have been treated just that much worse without anything concrete to complain about. I mean, it is hard to complain about being greeted without feeling like a tool. And queueing on a loungesuite is hard to whinge about without it sounding like a massive first world problem. And you can bet the bank is counting on that.


Pigs might fly before The Flying Dog soars

Saying you think things should be back in public hands is about as hip as saying you like Mormon underpants or chardonnay.

But, unlike Mormon underpants, the idea of putting Qantas back in public hands, is worth exploring.

That’s because Australia is an island. You can’t dig a tunnel and get here, you can’t catch a Eurail train, you can’t drive your car. You have to fly. (OK technically you can get here by cruiseliner or leaky boat but that’s a whole other blog).

Essentially our national carrier is going to be a whole lot more important than say, Switzerland‘s national carrier (which is owned by Germany). And as a nation, we need to be able to send our national carrier to troublespots on occasions to get Aussies out. Thankfully it’s only occasionally, but when it happens we need planes to follow a government directive fast.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t fancy the Australian Government‘s chances (no matter who is in charge) of ordering China Eastern to make an emergency trip to the Gaza strip to rescue some stranded Aussie tourists.

Also, because Qantas is responsible to shareholders and can respond to market forces, ie screw the customer, the price of regional flights is extortionate. Especially when you consider that many people forced to use regional flights wouldn’t necessarily have a spare $490 floating around (the cost of a flight from Sydney to Albury and back tomorrow for example).

Sure, Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane’s pretty cheap but what if you want to go to Narrabri?  If Qantas were put back in public hands then subsidised flights to regional Australia could stimulate the economy faster than you can say School Improvement Program.

Sure it costs more. But just tax Clive Palmer and you’ve bought yourself a new fleet right there. See – there’s a solution for everything!

The thing is you get what you pay for. Currently we (the taxpayer) aren’t paying for Qantas and it shows. We are left with a dysfunctional mishmash of Asian airline meets Dubai meeting point. The romance has gone right out of it – much like Mormon underwear.

I’d love to see some discussion about it, not just a kneejerk pooh poohing of the idea. We need a reliable national carrier that we can call our own and that really does call Australia, not Dubai, home.