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Opinion: Banking on customer satisfaction?

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12th Oct 2005
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It's unlikely to come as any surprise to the beleaguered public that, in terms of call centre customer satisfaction rates, financial services and telcos are the worst in the UK. It certainly came as no surprise to me anyway, having suffered at their hands myself.

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, there was a girl called Cath who saw to her horror that £1,500 had disappeared out of her bank account into the coffers of a well-known computer company that she’d had little or no contact with – ever.

She phoned her bank, one of the top high street names, who proceeded 'for security reasons' to ask for passwords that she hadn't used in years and sadly, couldn't remember. After leaving them her phone number, having them check it against their details and then calling her back, she was finally put her through to their call centre.

But when she told the agent of her sad plight, they said that it would take at least a month to look into the situation. She said she was concerned that she'd go overdrawn as a result of this fraudulent transaction and they said, sorry, they'd look into it, but it was her problem and she'd have to set up an over-draft facility.

Not happy with this snail-like resolution time, Cath called the aforementioned computer company herself and found their reaction much more to her liking. They checked their records and found that someone had submitted an online order in her name using her debit card, but that the address given didn't match her current one as she'd moved house a year before.

As she hadn't lost any cards for years or had any stolen, they suggested that it might be a case of identity theft, but added that they'd speak to their credit agency to check out the situation.

Further discussions revealed that both the credit agency and Cath's bank had authorised the transaction, even though the address details didn’t match. So much for her bank's infamous 'security'.

So Cath phoned that hallowed institution again to let them know the state of play and to ask what had gone wrong. But the bank, unfortunately, refused to discuss what might have happened because of, you’ve guessed it, 'security reasons'.

Nonetheless, she informed them that her account was scheduled to be credited by the computer company within three days and they said fine, she could have the over-draft facility till then. Sadly, due a mistake at the IT firm, however, the transaction actually took 10 days and the bank hit Cath with charges as a result.

As you can imagine, Cath was not happy. She once again phoned her bank and demanded to speak to the manager after receiving no satisfaction from yet another unsympathetic call centre agent. Two days later, he still hadn’t called back, so Cath rang again and finally managed to locate him.

She recounted the woeful tale and demanded not only to know what the hell was going on, but also that she be compensated with £1,000 for repayment of costs, lost work time and psychological distress. The bank, in the end, deigned to shove £20 her way and said they'd try to do better next time. Needless to say, she is now a (relatively) happy customer of a new bank!

But I'm sure I can't be the only one to have gone through all this, especially as, according to the ContactBabel study, 500,000 of all customer calls to banks are made to register a complaint. So if you have any similar tales of woe, do let us know. We're fascinated.

Cath Everett
Guest News Editor
[email protected]

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By liz.helyer
14th Oct 2005 09:24

I had an interesting discussion with a credit card company last night. Apparently paying off the balance and cancelling a card does not mean that the Standing Order is cancelled and it's my fault they carried on taking payments from my account - despite the fact I didn't owe them anything.

On the other hand I must say that Natwest has got it’s telephone system spot on. Like most people I don't mind pressing numbers once or even twice if it means I get the right person but some companies have you going through at least 5 menus. Natwest give you 2 options - to use the automated service or speak to a person straight away.

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By dougielb
17th Oct 2005 08:51

I tried to extract funds online from my ISA with a well known building society. I checked the balance and then tried to withdraw the full amount, somewhat surprisingly I was deemed to have insufficient funds. I then tried via the automated telephone service - same result. Finally I tried to speak to an operator only to find that they don't work on Sundays!

Needless to say we won't be using this building society again.

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