Letter - HSBC customers left to feel out of pocket

The banks and their customer PR never cease to amaze. Last week it was reported that 'less than wealthy' customers will not be able to get personal service at HSBC's Canford Cliffs branch in Poole, Dorset - an area that is noted for its millionaires.

A bank spokesman is quoted as saying: 'Not everybody in the world is equal. Some people have higher incomes and need greater services through the bank. These customers demand a better service.'

HSBC say they are focusing on premier customers at the branch because there are many living in the area. But the message did not seem to get through to the media, which ran headlines of 'Bank bans the poor' and 'The bank that likes to say "push off"'.

HSBC, like any business, has the right to run its operations as it sees fit. But not taking account of public perceptions and dipping into social comment can be a minefield for reputation.

To alienate customers, the banking authority and the local church, among others, is quite a stunning achievement in PR terms.

Alan Lane, CEO, Vasgama.

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