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Joined up Channels

My wife and I recently made several payments in euros to recipients in Portugal. One of these recipients queried the euro amount they had received.  We had made the payments via the online banking website of our bank, one of the big four UK banks.

The transactions were made over a period of time and finding them in the bank’s online system was a challenge.  You have to enter the start and end dates of the search which must be no more than three months apart, there are no defaults and both dates are mandatory.

Searching by the recipients names gave zero results. Eventually we found one payment which was identified as FORGN PYT249115547 with the sterling amount and the date. There was no information about the recipient or the euro equivalent or the exchange rate. We thought the number might have significance but it turned out to be a random serial number.

There were other transactions in the same online statement for ATM withdrawals in Portugal that included the euro amount, the exchange rate used, the date the transaction was made and the sterling equivalent. This shows they can cope with longer descriptions but they cannot extract this information for transactions that originate from their own internal systems.

My wife visited the high street branch of the bank which was chaotic, customers were milling around while bank staff attended to whoever could catch their eye. She eventually managed to get the attention of a young member of staff whose first comment was to say you should make a note of the amounts when you set-up the payment. When told this was not a practical solution as the transaction had been made weeks ago she advised looking up the exchange rate online.  She then  asked my wife for her debit card, turning it over she pointed to the telephone banking number that was printed on the reverse of the card and suggested my wife call them.

Eventually she called her supervisor who looked up the payments in the bank’s internal systems but could not find any details there either. She called the dealing room and got the exchange rate for the day of each payment and was able to confirm the amounts in euros but could not offer any help in identifying which payment went to which recipient.

The bank’s recently released mobile banking app goes one better and strips out the exchange rate and the foreign currency amounts from all transactions regardless of where they originated. This is a baffling decision; why not show all the transaction details on the mobile app?  Also you can set-up and make domestic payments but you cannot set-up foreign recipients or make payments to them, this can only be done via the online banking website.

With the reduction in transactions performed in branches it seems sensible to remove the old teller lines and make the branches less formal, but you still need a structure to guide your customers through the process of finding an advisor and of escalating queries that junior members of staff can’t handle.

The customer experience should not have that amount of friction and the various channels should be integrated and seamless.  Why not link online digital channels with telephone banking, the customer has already been authenticated when they logged in to the bank’s mobile or online service. This avoids the painful experience of navigating through endless menus on the phone and the advisor can greet the customer by name and already has their details on screen.

I am sure there were no details of the exchange rate and of the foreign currency amounts because the bank is still relying on ancient mainframe systems that cannot capture the extra information.  There is no quick fix here but this is hardly a new problem as it has been around for decades now. The people who know how to program in COBOL are growing older and retiring which makes just maintaining the status quo ever more difficult.


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