Bank fails on customer service

Bank fails on customer service
27 August 2013

A few weeks ago I wrote about my frustrations at having instructed a UAE-based bank to sell some local shares I owned, only to find that the transaction had not happened and that the bank expected me to simply shrug my shoulders and carry the resulting losses; the share price had subsequently dropped.

I fought it. And I got my share price – but only because I had a detailed trail of written transactions, and once I had the bit between my teeth, I simply didn’t let go. 

I had refused to talk over the phone, and had insisted that every single detail was in emails back and forth, something I recommend everyone should do.

Who is serving who?

It transpires that information or instructions given over the phone only seem to work one way: for the bank to verify random information that they believe protects us from people trying to wrongfully access our money. It does not serve you, the customer, in that the bank will not necessarily act on anything you agree to verbally, and you have no redress if it is a case of “I told him/he told me”.

It also seems that the phone serves the supervisors or unit heads who, having been badgered by said customer reacting to negligence or misconduct by the bank, believes that it is OK to cold call you simply to hear you out, with zero preparation beforehand.

In other words, the bank supervisor uses the phone to dissipate problems, not to fix them. And far from being armed with facts before communicating with the customer, the phone call becomes merely a fact-gathering exercise, perhaps because the caller is overworked, having to deal with so many of these types of complaints. 

What I expect is for information and facts to be gathered, and for an opinion to be formed and perhaps even a course of action set out, before contacting the customer.

Taking care of the customer

It is all rather confusing you see. I thought the banks were the custodians of my money, and that I could have easy access to it. But the inner workings seem to be protecting the bank from me, the customer, and anything I need or ask for, while keeping my money.

Well, now I have started the process of disentangling myself from this bank and transferring my savings elsewhere – but I’m still waiting for that to happen.

In fact, I sent an email inquiring about the status of my instruction just before settling down to write this, as the money has not materialised at the other end.

The truth is that we are hostage to the banks here, aren’t we?

And the fact of the matter is that we want the simple things – like having our instructions honoured, or our hard-earned cash sitting where we had instructed the bank to place it. Or to be asked whether we want the money from a deposit account to roll over into a current account that pays no interest rather than someone in the bank making that decision for us, without bothering to let us know.

Someone I know opened up an account here, sold her property in London and had it transferred to the UAE account. She then went in to access it, only to be told she had no account. She was mortified, called me (I had actually recommended the bank) and proceeded to have her life flash before her eyes – it was her pension money. 

The bank had not only accepted an inward transfer, only to place the money in limbo and not allocated to any account, but also somehow any reference to her as a customer had vanished. 

Money is an integral part of our life

An extreme case, granted. But the point is, it’s people’s lives we are talking about.

So. Let me get this straight: on the one hand banks here make decisions on behalf of their clients, and do not inform them.

On the other, they do not carry out written instructions in a timely manner, and proceed to call, email, check and triple check that we really, really do want the mega sum of a few thousand dollars to be transferred to another bank.

The thing is, if you were to calculate the number of hours we as customers spend chasing, answering, checking, then really, it is a miracle we have the time or energy to earn any money to deposit at all.

I was at a conference a few months ago where the keynote speaker was extolling the virtues of mobile banking and current technology. The bank representatives were sitting attentively, hanging on this new age banking guru’s every word.

The session pivoted on “giving the customer what they want” and how technology was the answer.

Get real. The bottom line is customer service. Honouring commitments, following through, being accountable. It’s simple – get these things right and we’ll choose your bank over every other. For ever. 

This article first appeared in The National. You may also be interested in:

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Dubai house prices soar as residents switch from renting to buying


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