User Empathy

My dad and I visited the bank today. Hardly anyone visits a bank nowadays but some govt process requires that I get a seal from a bank on some documents. Anyways, so we were there. We were waiting in the visitor’s lounge while the paperwork was being processed.

A big room, with a row of visitor’s chairs with the wall behind, facing a row of cubicles of office employees with their monitors positioned so as to keep it away from the prying eyes of the visitors. On the left was the teller’s counter and on the right was the ‘may I help you’ desk which is usually for the office boys to chat around.

As we sat in our chairs, my dad (ex-banker) looked around and made some very valid observations about where some things should have been placed and that one of the framed posters was hanging in a very precarious manner. He called the security guard and told him that it should be fixed lest some mishap occurs.

I was impressed with his powers of observation and attention to detail. I told him as much. That’s when he told me that in the early days of his career as a bank manager, he had a superior who gave him the following advice:

As per the bank policy the office has to serve the first customer at 10 AM. That means the tellers and clerks have to be in office at 9:45 AM, so that they can ready their place and be ready to attend to customers. But managers should try to come at 9:30 and should sit at the customer’s lounge. Managers need to sit there for 5 minutes, look around, see what the customer sees, feel what the customer feels and make changes so that customer’s waiting experience is also enriched.

This was 30 years ago. Isn’t that the simple, meaningful version of the much glorified, less understood ‘user empathy’!