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Rethinking customer expectations in Banking

I had an interesting personal experience today with my bank.  This is one of the top high street banks that many cite as having bad service, but to be honest I love them, I think they are great and regularly defend them.  I have multiple accounts, a credit card and previously a mortgage.  I use their service daily, mobile banking and more.  I could not be happier with them.  Yes there are some minor gripes but nothing material.

Today I called to increase the limit on my credit card.  We are doing some work on the house and we we have a few things to pay for.  A simple transaction you would think.  I'll be honest I expected to be able to do it online, but no - no option - I needed to call. No issues, as I say, I've never really had a negative experience.

This one however perplexed me, especially given today's pace and technology enablement, and what else I have been able to do with them over the years, but importantly what I can do in almost any other retailer.

  • When I called, I was told there were 'no offers' for a credit limit increase.  Apparently you have to be offered it.
  • I could 'appeal' it if I wanted to, but this would take 10 days.  Yes, you read this correctly - 10 days.   I was ready (needed) to spend today for the stuff we needed.  This sounded bad, I didn't want to appeal an offer I didn't have, I just wanted an increase in my limit please.
  • Their underwriters would need to review each case individually. 
  • The lady was very helpful, but seemed to be stuck/limited by their own process and could see my history with them.  Dare I even say, 'Computer says no!'
  • I asked if I can speak to a manager, (politely) in the hope that common sense may prevail and the team were empowered to do something here.
  • No hope, I had to go through the 10 day process - so I agreed to proceed.
  • I asked if they could note my dissatisfaction on this, to which they raised a complaint and then instantly closed it as it wasn't something wrong with the bank, just a internal process.  I didn't quite understand this.
  • What they followed was a conversation with something who wanted to take me through security, again (I had already passed) and ask me basic questions (outside of security) who seemed to simply have zero knowledge or empathy for me as an existing customer or what I vested with them.  Not a single bit of continuity to the previous 17 mins conversation.
  • This was MY moment of truth that I simply said no, and they lost me!  

This is simply inconvenient, beyond necessity and its value to me.  In my view, I could have walked into another bank, with no knowledge of me and applied for a card OR applied online and have one sent to me in the time it takes for an underwriter of an institution that knows me for the last 10 years to allow common sense to prevail, surely?

I'm a loyal old soul, typical of my generation - I've been with the bank for a good number of years, I think 10.  I would expect to have a good credit record (I actually haven't checked), in so far as I pay a credit card bill off each month and by direct debit, so no missed payments.

While I was on the call waiting, I took to twitter to see if they had a different view online and could help me.  

  • What I like was they responded immediately in a helpful and friendly way, on a Saturday.  Great!
  • I didn't expect (it would have been nice), but there was no linkage to my phone call, or the fact I was a customer.  (We must start to track customers other interaction preferences and details, other than phone number and email)
  • They engaged though, which ended in up one of their team wanting to speak to me.
  • After I provided my details, he called straight away, ran through security and apologised.  It was back to the 10 day process.  All roads lead to this.
  • He did offer me £15 for my inconvenience, I politely declined - suggested they donate it to a charity.  This was never about money.  This is about listening to your customers.

Its only after I put the phone down that I realised I was supposed to be one of their premier customers (not their name for it).  I still don't think they have their strategy correct on this - Its a paid for account.

This all came about from me wanting to put more business the banks way, while we undertake some work at home.

In summary, service has to be simple:

  • Loyal customers have to be worth their weight in gold, surely?
  • Empower your front line staff, regardless of how customers want to talk to you.
  • I call you probably once a year, I deal with you entirely online and pretty much daily.  You had a great opportunity to WOW me. We missed it.
  • Start with common sense, end with common sense.  Its the basics we fail on.

The net result, I used another card.  Simple, but my loyalty is being questioned by a brand I trust and respect through a process designed for many moons again and lacks common sense.

Oh... and no one ever even asked how much I wanted to increase it by!

Nigel Walsh | @nigelwalsh



Comments: (5)

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 11 June, 2015, 12:37Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

From the available information, it's difficult to conclude whether the bank in question would think that it lost a customer or shed a customer in this specific instance although, in a general context, their drive for greater profitability has reportedly made them do the latter quite regularly of late, as I'd highlighted in Are Banks Losing Customers Or Shedding Customers?

Alex Noble
Alex Noble - McAfee - London 16 June, 2015, 12:311 like 1 like

I understand the frustration with the channes not being joined up. Contact centres handle inquiries in real time, Twitter handles inquiries in real time. Getting a universal queue and a single view of customer is not that hard (if you really want to do it!).

The bigger challenge you highlight is the culture and processes. This bank could integrate it's channels, but if doesn't change the staff's ability to respond to the customers situation then it doesn't fix the real problems.

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 16 June, 2015, 13:28Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Customer calls Bank. Customer asks for a "new product". Bank responds immediately saying it will take them 10 days to get back with a decision. While we can debate about the 10 days duration, there can be no argument that every seller has the right to take its time to decide whether to sell a product to a given customer, especially when the "product" involves increasing the Bank's risk exposure to the customer. 

On the other hand, let's take a classical situation faced by banks and every user of IT: Tech vendor delivers a product / software. Product has a defect. Bank calls Vendor. Bank reports defect. After accepting the defect, Vendor responds saying, per SLA, resolution time is 30 days. Vendor can't decide whether to rectify the defect or not - it must, both contractually and morally - but it still wants 30 days.

Coming from the tech industry, I find it hard to claim that the bank is the one to have customer-insensitive culture or processes.

Nigel Walsh
Nigel Walsh - Deloitte - London 16 June, 2015, 17:16Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes Hi. Your missing my point on this. Other orgs already offer real time decisioning, especially for existing customers.
Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 17 June, 2015, 08:28Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Hi @NigelW:

In your post you mentioned that others offer an alternative - i.e. raise LOC on an existing credit card - "in the time" it takes for your existing bank. Which matched my experience with all my banks. Had you mentioned that you found another bank that raised LOC instantly, I would've seen your point. I know I can get a new credit card instantly from another bank but that's beside the point because, for more reasons than one, that's very different from the present context of raising LOC on an existing credit card.