Is the key to banking customer service being “socially useful?”
A case study of why brilliant basics matter
Funnily enough, I didn’t win on either count. The following week yet another random combination of bank card and cheque book arrived. Of particular amusement was the leaflet enclosed about the risks of identity theft. “You’ll be lucky,” I thought, “any criminal stealing my post hasn’t got a hope of matching the right debit card and pin number to the cheque book!”
Brilliant basics, lesson 1:
Services need to meet the customer's basic needs. In the event of a problem, empower agents to solve the problem and not pass it back to the customer.
Brilliant basics, lesson 2:
Poor service leads to customers switiching. If you don't resolve the issue, customers engage in "negative word of mouth".
Brilliant basics, lesson 3:
Unless you make process improvements, no processes will be improved
For reasons of brevity, I shall summarise this latest fiasco in a few short bullets, as I’m sure you’ll have the gist of things by now:
- My accounts were transferred from Standard Life, not to me, but to a random person of the same surname with whom I have no connection. It appears Barclays had graduated in the last four years from generating random names on a chequebook to a fully fledged “reassigning your account details randomly to people who happen to have the same surname as you” service. Close, but no cigar.
- A failure to follow a simple and perfectly authorised transfer instruction by the contact centre followed. At least they'd figured out I was me and my funds were mine, but I still couldn’t get at my funds. Given my historic experience as a “valued customer” four years ago, I felt a week was a long time in banking with Barclays. I didn't want to take a chance of what they were going to do next week and I simply didn't trust them with my money any more!
- To their absolute credit, Barclays complaints department responded (eventually) with an excellent letter addressing each point of my complaint in turn. They even offered a small amount of compensation.
Instead, defeat is snatched from the jaws of victory! Having returned my complaint acknowledgement asking for an electronic transfer to my bank account with HSBC instead of a cheque, the reply duly arrived a week later:
Seriously? One of the world's largest banks can't transfer funds to another bank electronically? Funny, you managed to do it last week, so for "unable" I should really read "unwilling." By now, nothing is a surprise.
Brilliant basics, lesson 4:
The customer doesn't care about your internal procedures. Working processes need to be followed and broken processes need to be fixed. If you can do something the week before, refusing to do the same thing a week later just makes you look incompetent.
Reference: Bougie et al, 2003, Angry Customers don't Come Back, They Get Back: The Experience and Behavioral Implications of Anger and Dissatisfaction in Services. Evaluation, 31(4), pp.377–393.