You can see it in the leaves, feel it in the breeze and smell it in the air: Cold weather is blowing in. This time of year brings a lot of things, much of which finds its way into your banking facility via bundled-up, boot-covered customers. Snow, salt and sand from sidewalks and parking lots is a given come winter. Germs may arrive a bit earlier, however. The cold and flu season is already almost upon us, and sickness can be spread simply by touching contaminated surfaces like door handles, countertops and writing utensils.
There's another surface that can spread germs if you or your customers aren't careful: ATMs. The ubiquity and frequency with which touch screens are used can be instructive for how you maintain and invest in them as the days grow shorter and temperatures plunge.
7 in 10 express concern about touch screen sanitation
According to a recent survey conducted by an Ireland-based kiosk services provider, 70% of respondents can't help but worry about coming down with an illness after using a touch screen, ATM Marketplace reported. The risk is hard to avoid as these self-service kiosks just about everywhere nowadays, from restaurants to subway stations, airports, health clubs, movie theaters and fast food locations. Of those who are concerned about communicable diseases spread via touch screen technology, nearly three-quarters said they worried the most about bank ATMs – more than fast food chains or even hospital check-in screens!
John Browne, CEO and founder of Katsus, which sells microbial coatings for touch screens, noted in a press release that the combination of cold weather and frequency with which kiosks are used makes them breeding grounds for potentially harmful bacteria.
"It's a perfect storm," Browne warned. "The bacteria can just so easily spread on these screens, then spread from screen to screen."
He added that whether its E. coli, staphylococcus or salmonella or any number of other germs, kiosks host more forms of bacteria than even toilet seats or bathroom faucet handles.
"Most people don't wash their hands effectively enough."
What's contributing to this issue?
There are a few factors playing into this troublesome health hazard. The first one is easily remediable, yet not as common as you'd hope: regular hand washing. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, while it's customary to wash your hands after using the restroom, a majority of those who do so don't clean their hands effectively enough. Health officials recommend vigorously scrubbing every surface of the hand with soap and water for approximately 20 seconds. Yet many people don't bother to count or to lather up, opting instead to just quickly rinse with water. Notably, it is also recommended, especially during cold and flu season, to wash thoroughly after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose or even just touching your face. The CDC says effective hand washing can significantly reduce the risk of infections in general and respiratory infections by approximately 16%, yet again people tend to be more lax than they should.
Another 'risk-enhancer', as previously referenced, is the omnipresence of ATMs. Even though branch locations are decreasing in parts of the country due to changing consumer behaviors, ATMs are as prominent as ever, with 22% of financial institutions owning a fleet of more than 2,000, according to ATM Marketplace. Not only that, banks and credit unions expect to operate even more ATMs in the coming years, with 30% intending to increase their investment in ATM technology.
The fact that ATMs have risen in popularity speaks to their value with FIs as well as customers. They make cash transactions more seamless and ultimately provide an extra set of hands for the banking facilities that can never have too many, given the variety of services that require a human touch.
However, as do-it-all-for-you as ATMs can be, they need to be properly maintained on an ongoing basis for customers to use them efficiently AND comfortably. Regular wipe downs for ATMs and other branch equipment are a good idea for preserving the 'health' of the machines on the outside. But what about a deeper clean to assess problems before your equipment 'gets sick'.
BranchServ can help in this regard with our BranchPM service plan. BranchPM is a maintenance program that can help your bank perform as it should. BranchPM ensures your equipment including safe deposit boxes, vault doors, and undercounter steel operates at full capacity. Indeed, structured preventative maintenance ensures that we catch minor problems before they become tomorrow's equipment failures. And our second line maintenance program does the same for your ATMs. The latter is part of our Professional Services offering that helps your bank or credit union with automation strategy, implementation, integration and ongoing technical support.
For more information on BranchPM or Professional Services, please get in touch (with clean hands) today.