Citibank branches in New York ask you to sign in on a clipboard.

My first reaction was irritation. It seemed so dated and analog. Were they really asking me to write down my name and reason for coming in?

I became intrigued, however, when I noticed people ahead of me listed their reason as “visit”.

I asked the tellers. They said a lot of people come in just to talk.

Think about that. Citibank staffs the bank knowing that a non-trivial number of their customers are going to come in to confabulate. A seeming waste of everyone’s time.

The branch manager explained that some people ask questions unrelated to their Citibank accounts. They have life issues they are grappling with. If it’s not too difficult, the bankers try to help.

I told him I need to open an account for a company I’m starting. I explained that it was complicated – I need to go through a bunch of papers – so I would come back.

He suggests emailing him the documents so he can help wade through it.

Sales people would call what he did “objection handling.” Instead of letting me go, he offered a solution to make it harder for me to walk away. He kept me on the hook. The pitch definitely worked better in person.

It made me re-think the “cost” relative to the benefit of having bankers in the branch and having people sign in to the clipboard. Maybe that human touch was what is needed.

A couple of years ago I encouraged my parents to sign up for a brokerage account with Robinhood. It was high tech and super easy to register.

The problem came this year when they wanted to close the account. At the time there was no way to contact Robinhood. There was no listed phone number. No one to speak with.

It took them more than two months and countless phone calls to close the account and get their money back. On the website you would sign up to get a call back but when it came they would be unavailable. Or someone called who couldn’t help them. It was a comedy of errors.

In the process, they told friends and family. It’s hard to put a price on that kind of publicity.

When I was growing up I remember asking my father once how much money he had in the bank. Without hesitating, he answered down the penny.

I asked how it was possible he could know with such precision.

He said that he called the bank every day to check it. He would listen to the recording and verify that the money hadn’t disappeared. Part of the reason he banked where he did was the ability to call every day and get an answer.

Eventually, the data was posted online. Now he uses an iPad.

Technology is awesome. But not when it comes at the expense of customer service.

Sometimes the best User Experience may be a phone number you can call or even a clipboard