THINKING BUSINESS
a blog by Chris Barrow

Banks are crap at customer service.

Story 1: It’s Friday afternoon and I’m sat in my car on the drive of the family home, with my two daughters in the back seats, having just picked them up from school. The rain is pouring down outside – torrential Manchester rain in the dark of an autumnal afternoon – aided by gale-force winds that are blowing people attached to umbrellas down the street. My cell phone rings and I answer before thinking – caller ID is unknown. I hear an accent that is hard to place – I would have said NOT Indian sub-continent – possibly somewhere further East – maybe Thailand? “Hello Mr Barrow – this is a call from your bank – HSBC – firstly can I ask you to verify your date of birth?” My heart sinks as I realise that I’ve accidentally fallen through the back of life’s wardrobe into “call-centre land”. Goodbye logic. I deliver said date and she continues: “Mr Barrow – we notice that you have a personal account with us that stands £9,500 overdrawn against a limit of £10,000. That’s not a problem but we notice there has been no activity on the account for three months. We like to see activity on accounts Mr Barrow. So could you pay £418 today?” Where and why she gets £418 from I have no idea. The account is years old and ranges from credit to debit, within agreed limits and according to what I’m up to. I’m not late with a payment, there is no payment – it’s a current account. So I start to dance with her: “I will not be paying £418 today. First, there was never any agreement to do that. Second, it’s 4.15pm Friday afternoon and I do not work Fridays. Third, I am sat outside my home with my daughters. I will look at this Monday and get back to you.” “So, Mr Barrow, do you have another bank account that you could use to make this payment now?” Did she listen? “No – I bank with YOU and have done for over 10 years.” “Well how do you propose to make a payment today Mr Barrow?” “I don’t propose to make a payment today – I propose to look at the situation on Monday when I return to work.” “Well how much will you send on Monday Mr Barrow – £418?” “I don’t know how much I will send – I am sat in my car, my car is not fitted with internet access, I cannot tell how much money I have in my other accounts unless I go on-line – which I will do on Monday.” “So can I make a note that you will send £418 on Monday?” “NO! You can make a note that I will look at my accounts on Monday and make a payment.” “Well can I point out Mr Barrow that if we do not receive a payment of at least £418 then the account will be passed to collections and I would rather not do that.” So now she is playing good cop, bad cop. The call ends – I’m angry – my daughters think I’m in trouble with the police or something. Once again HSBC’s policy to outsource their call centres makes me determined to dump them as soon as it suits me. Story 2: Sunday morning – I’m in the shower and the phone rings. I’m standing naked in the lounge with my hair covered in shampoo as I answer. “Is that Mr Barrow?” “Yes” “Hello Mr Barrow, my names Carol and I’d like to speak to you about a banking matter.” “Carol – it’s 10.00am Sunday morning.” “Yes – that’s right – we work on Sundays!” “Well I don’t work on Sundays Carol.” “Oh – would you like me to give you a number to call on Monday then?” “Yes please Carol.” Is it me?

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