I was impressed by a personal banker’s service, not because the whole process was perfect, but just because of her friendliness, passion, and willingness to provide me with the best outcome that I would expect. However, she also demonstrated to me, a first-time customer, how bad their ICT system is. It is not a personal issue; it is a system issue, an enterprise architecture issue.
Big banks’ branches usually have enquiry desks and rooms with personal bankers to deal with non-cash business. While providing you with personal banking service, bankers typically turn one computer screen to you to show some figures, and at times they make phone calls in front of you. In such a comfortable setting, you can expect to sit there and have a long meeting.
If I were to enquire about loans, I would probably spend up to one hour there to discuss the details, but not for credit cards.
My past experience with credit cards was totally “behind the scene”. That means I didn’t need to personally walk into a branch. All what was needed was to submit the application and supporting documents via the Internet or in the post. Then the cards were to be posted to me.
This time when I switched to this one of the four big banks in Australia, they asked me to come into a branch to supply supporting documents for my application and collect the card once the documents are verified.
When I presented the offer letter, supporting documents and my IDs to the personal banker, she started the processThe first issue we came across was that she found two cards were ready for collection, but I only applied for one card. The bank approved a credit limit, and for some reason, they divided the limits into two completely separated cards (i.e., not linked to the same account; not secondary card). The personal banker kindly advised that I would be charged for an annual fee for each of the cards, which she thought unreasonable. Anyway, she would like to verify my documents first.
She asked for three pay slips and I only gave her two. She said three consecutive pay slips were required. Then I pointed to her that the letter I received only asked for two pay slips if a year-to-date total was shown. She apologised for not knowing the rule had been changed.
After she has verified my documents, she entered all the data on the documents to their system to further verify if the data presented were actually matching what had been recorded.
Then we came back to the dual cards issue. I requested that she move one card’s credit limit to the other card and canceled the first card. She accepted my request and explained that could be done in two steps: activate both cards at her end, and call the call centre to combine the credit limits and close one card.
To activate the second card, she needed to enter the data on my supporting documents to the system again. She did so, but she was returned an error message indicating that the system was unable to complete the verification.
OK, then the funny part starts here…
She called the customer service number which is exactly the same as a customer would call. Hand free was enabled on the phone. She gave away her credentials over the phone which could be overheard by me. That was something like a internal pass code to verify that she was a particular staff member at that branch. She asked (1) why I was given two cards and (2) why she could not submit verification data for the second card. These were two different types of questions: one was about credit approval process and the other was a technical issue. The call centre could not deal with her enquirers, so the call was transferred to a technical support department. She asked the same questions again, and then she was told that issues were unknown. Then she was given another phone number to call. She noticed that I had been watching the time — I had been sitting there for more than half an hour….She wanted to conclude the call and rejected to write down the number she was asked to call. She ended the call.
Then she turned to me with frustrating expression. She said, “I don’t care. I just activate your card. I’m not going to verify the documents. They asked me to call another number. That would take ages. ” Then she activated the second card without supporting documents being officially verified in the system.
I asked if there was any reference code in the error message. She repeated: “There’s no reference code. I don’t care. I’m so sorry for the delay. I just activate your card. Now I have to call them again to combine the cards…”
On the second call, she gave away her credentials again and asked the other end to combine the credit limits and cancel one card.
That was 45 minutes. That was a 45-minute demonstration of a banking system that the customer is going to use; a call centre that the customer is to call in the future.
The customer at the branch I can say is excellent. I mean the attitude, not the knowledge and skills. She was concerned about the delay.
However, all what she has done has demonstrated that there are a lot of problems in this bank:
(1) Credit approval process. I applied for one card, but they approved two cards for me.
(2) ICT system. It is OK that the system does not work 100% as expected. However, a reference code or something similar such as a unique error wording should be identified and linked to a solution or lead to further investigation.
(3) Problem-solving process. The process of dealing unknown issue is obviously not clear to that personal banker. She decided to activate a card not following the process; she also decided to give her customer very negative comment about her employer.
(4) Call centre. There is a lot of space to improve their internal communication: how the staff ID verification is handled, how the call centre can help the staff at the front end, etc.
(5) Training. I don’t think that personal bank has been well-trained because the business process was not clear in her mind, although she tried every effort to provide me with good customer service. If she had been trained well, that means there is a problem in the training system of this bank.
When I call a customer service number, I am usually advised that the call may be monitored for training purposes. However, what about the customer service that is carried out in the front end? If I don’t document this today, nobody will. Their training department will never know about this.
Actually, a very simple method is to pass this responsibility to the branch manager. Just add one step in the process of dealing with unknown or unfamiliar issues: the personal banker to fill out a form to report to the branch manager so that product-related issues, ICT issues and training needs can be easily identified and documented for further processing.