Thursday, November 15, 2007

First Direct - Beating customer expectations

I've just opened a First Direct account. They have a great deal which means that as long as you pay in a certain amount each month after the first month they give you £100. This is exactly the way banking should work.

For years the norm has been to give banks your money and in exchange they give you a puny return, while they make billions from your cash.

They then have the temerity to charge you for letters, statements and be closed just when you need them.

How much sense does it make to be a company which supplies people with cash and then to close on Saturday when the majority of people actually need money or want financial advice about a loan or mortgage. Only banks would put barriers in the way of allowing customers to interact with them. They instead force customers to make appointments in the week when they should be working. While I'm at it why do doctors and dentists do the exact same thing? Open all weekend and close a day in the week if you really have to.

Anyway to get back to the point. First Direct say that they'll transfer the £100 after the first month of banking with them. This sounds fair enough so image my surprise when they transferred the £100 13 days after I opened my account.

First Direct are different because they change the banking conventions and exceed customer expectations. If you business can do both of these and do it well then you're on to a winner. Anything less and you're just another also ran.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Happy Birthday Helvetica

Yesterday was the 50th birthday of the typeface Helvetica. On last night's Imagine on BBC1 they celebrated this great typeface. Helvetica is all around you, so much so you probably don't even notice.

One sad note for me is that Helvetica has no been overtaken in usage by the far less elegant Arial. The reason this far less well constructed typeface has beaten this design classic is down to that old demon - Microsoft.

Helevetica has copyright and design issues. Clearly Microsoft loved the typeface but didn't want to stomach the costs so they invented Arial. In last night's show designers said that Helvetica is the default. And if you own any DTP programmes I know you'll agree.

But for the rest of the world who only use Word and Excel then the default is Arial.

If only Helvetica had been designed when the new rules of spreading ideas and designs had been around then your word files and presentations would be just that little bit more elegant.