Health warning* – this is a long and detailed customer journey. It only goes to prove the cost incurred in not doing things well, in not listening and in having no systematic way to listen such as wocas – What our customers are saying.

Received a phone call from an overseas centre saying they’re my business bank and they want to take me through security. I say I need to take them through security first otherwise they could be phishing. They say they cant answer any questions til I’ve gone through security. They say it’s an important security issue. Dead end.

I ask them if to give feedback as this happens every time with this bank, never a problem with their sister bank, even though managed from the  same offshore fraud centre. She ignores this. So I pull her back to it and ask her what she’ll do. She’ll pass it to her supervisor. Right. Dead end.

Later I call in. The IVR wants my 16 digit number of my credit card. As I’m walking through town, I don’t want to stop, find the card etc. I try pressing 0 and go through a few loops but don’t get past the IVR so I give up. Dead end.

Later I’m walking past our business branch, so I pop in and ask if they can tell me if its phishing  or a real need, and if so what it is. The girl says they cant check, so I push and she looks at my credit card but says I still need to call the call centre. But I say this is my branch – but she says it makes no difference, they have no access to check if there’s an issue on my account. Dead end.

I ask her to give feedback. She tells me to go to the website – I say no, I’m asking you to take my feedback and what will you do with it – she’s perplexed. She says she knows there are ways of giving feedback but isn’t sure and I’d be better ….ringing the call centre to give it. So I escalate – who runs business banking and what’s their number? She goes online and finds a number – and tells me its there online, I can look it up. I ask her to write it down. Its the call centre number. Dead end.

On the train, I go online to check the credit card – its not a function to see online transactions in the online account for the card. Dead end.

In the evening at home, with my card, and in the online account, I call the call centre number and enter the 16 digit number into the IVR. I’m asked to enter my date of birth which I enter. It’s wrong. I listen carefully to the formatting and try twice more. It’s still wrong. At least it defaults and I get through. Now I have to answer security questions. Do you have an overdraft facility? No idea, but I know we’ve never used one. That fails the “test” as it did the last time I called, maybe a year or two ago. I must find out if we do. Do we have a commercial card associated with the account – well that would be the one I’m asking about and the one I entered in your IVR to get through. Oh yes.

I protest – I only want to know if there’s a genuine call – if there is then lets worry about security after that….

Well maybe another question then – first two letters of my security question which might be my mother’s maiden name. A pass! I can talk to someone. They don’t ask the usual question of last transaction on the account so I need not have gone into the online account.

I ask her to correct their records for my date of birth. She says it isn’t that, its that I don’t have telephone banking so it won’t work unless I sign up to that. What even if its the card number I’m ringing? OK sign me up. We’ll send you the forms in the post. Given we’ve gone through security, cant you sign me up here and now – no. Dead end.

[And what was the point of the DoB anyway, they have identified me by the card? What are the benefits to me, to them of signing up to telephone banking?]

So – Was it phishing or is there a real need? I’m put on hold for a while. I’m told it is genuine and they’ll have to put me through to someone else. I’m put on hold…hold….hold. Eventually I get the offshore centre again and explain. She needs to read the notes. And I’m put on hold….hold….hold. Eventually she’s ready to talk.

She talks in debits and credits and would it be ok if they took £30 from our account. I try to get her to explain in plain English. Apparently there was a fraudulent payment that we didn’t see but was detected by the merchant and refunded before we could see it but now the bank want to take the £30 again from our account for some reason she cant explain. I say, twice very clearly, for the voice recorder – you do not have permission to take this money. I ask for an email explaining what has happened, what they propose and why. I’ll need to talk to my supervisor, can I put you on… you cannot. Oh ok what’s your email address and we’ll email. Next day, nothing received yet.

Given even allowing that one has come to expect banks to be customer unfriendly, what are my issues.

And some easy solutions:

1) stop making phishing calls with no security check possible to confirm you really are the bank, especially since another part of the bank can do it

2) make the IVR relevant and easy to use [for example use my CLI rather than account details to identify me] [don’t ask for irrelevant data you didn’t need and didn’t apply i.e. DoB]

3) find out what the customer wants first and see if it requires security – it’d save you and me a shed load of time

4) make the security questions relevant – when you are running the business, you don’t follow the detail of the bank accounts (their other question is last transaction on the account)

5) make the security secure – anyone could get or guess the answers I gave

6) make the obvious data available online. Not seeing the transactions online is so 19th century

7) better practice on “holding” customers – stay with them

8) if you’re going to ask to take money at all, have a proper explanation of what it is and why it applies in the first place – the customer just might want to understand

9) copy the successful processes of your sister company. The sister bank has security, operational processes, staff behaviours, feedback, IVR, online processes, outbound all sorted

These are operational details to some. Customer experience to others. But without ‘brilliant basics” any trust or investment proposition will fail.

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