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The architecture behind terrible service

My last article written was over a year ago. I have no time to write articles at the moment. This should demonstrate the scale of incomprehensible stupidity that I have been faced with in the past weeks that has driven me to write this...

So, before you read on - I'm doing my best to write this and not sound like a rant, more an informative guide of how not to run things, but I make no promises regarding the level of success I'll have with that. You have been warned. (Edit: Actually I'm too angry right now to make this article what I wanted it to be. For now, it's just documenting what happened. I'll update it later.)

Picture this...

For a minute, pretend that the following things are true:

  1. You operate a large bank
  2. You are for purposes of this, the CEO or Customer Service Director of said bank
  3. This bank has millions of customers globally
  4. This bank also has a healthy branch network consisting of all sorts of bankers around the world and keep queues to a minimum
  5. Your bank is doing so well that it can operate "Wealth Management" and "Premier" divisions to deal with your more high-value customers
  6. Your customers will require service, these days, via any form of communication deemed appropriate (in 2015 that is - Online (Chat, Social Media, self-servicing), Telephone, and in Branch)
  7. You've implemented ways to deal with these different channels - good for you!

So far, you might think you're doing pretty well. In fact, I can almost guarantee that in your bank's annual report, just based on the facts above - you're doing great! To be fair to you, you probably are doing pretty well for the most part and I commend you and your bank for that. But do you really know you're performing well and serving your customers the best you can? Can your customers get simple queries resolved quickly and efficiently?

Probably not.

By the way - you're Barclays.

The Scenario

You're now a customer of the branch. You have a few accounts with them and have been a customer for years! You're even lucky enough to be one of their Premier customers giving you better, more direct and accessible service.

You have an ISA with the bank that you wish to now close as you've found a better interest rate elsewhere.

Since you're probably pretty smart, you don't call straight into customer services and instead google how to specifically close the type of ISA you have - this results in you getting and calling a direct line to the "ISA Servicing Team" and you're happy that you're able to close it as said on the website quite simply over the phone.

The Initial Call

Hello, I need to close an ISA account can I do that over the phone?

Yes no problem let's get this sorted for you <takes details incl. where to transfer the balance to>

Thanks, I saw online there is a charge of 180 days interest so I assume that I'll just get marginally less than is actually in there?

That's correct. I'll just get that closed for you now. <place on hold>

I can't actually close this account over the phone so I have to send a written request to the ISA Complex Servicing Team which will take 6 working days

Alright then, please proceed

I have submitted the request if they have any queries they will call you on your mobile.

Happy days. In just a few days the account will be closed and you'll have your money.

As time goes by...

6 working days have now passed, so you think it's about time to call the ISA servicing team again to check on progress.

Hello, I submitted a request to close my account the Friday before last, just wondering what the progress is on this?

Let me look into this for you <placed on hold>

I can see the request has been sent off and the ISA Complex team have come back saying they don't deal with these requests. You need to send a letter or go into branch to close this account as interest needs to be calculated and they can do that.

Right. Can I go into any branch (with just a counter) and will it be done in the same day?

Yes that is correct let me double check with my manager <placed on hold>

Yes sir you can go into any branch and they will be able to close it for you no problem. Sorry for the inconvenience.

At this point, you also tweet your frustration towards @BarclaysUK as it's 8PM and so branches are closed. Surprisingly, @BarclaysUKHelp respond and get more information so they can pass it up the chain. All done, and you plan to head into branch tomorrow lunchtime.

Pop into the branch

The branch closest to the office is a small one with no full time personal bankers and just counter staff, something you specifically checked would be OK the night before so you go in expectant of having an account closed before the hour is through.

Hi, I've been told to come into branch to close my ISA as it couldn't be done over the phone

We can't do that

I did check it could be done over the counter, are you sure?

<Checks with supervisor> No sir we definitely can't do that, you'll need an appointment with a personal banker. I can arrange that for you?

Yes please, as soon as possible

<Arranges same-day appointment in a branch 7 miles away> Thank you sir, bye

You decide to follow up some progress (or lack thereof) report with @BarclaysUKHelp just to keep them informed.

Also, as you walk away from the branch you decide to call the Premier team to see if they can help at all. They advise you that it needs to be done in branch and that it will be sorted at the appointment. Alright!

The appointment

Finally, it's time for the appointment. You're happy, obviously, that things are finally going to be sorted for you and you're speaking to someone face-to-face.

Hi, so I've been misinformed several times now and I'm finally here to close my account with you, my wonderful in-person personal banker who has the authority to do everything that I could possibly desire with my accounts as I am here, and you are here! Hurray!*

I don't think I can do that in branch, you are meant to call the ISA Servicing Team like you did and they are meant to deal with it

Obviously, but they referred me to you, cross-confirmed by your online team, Premier team, and the ISA servicing team.

I see..

<At this point, Naveed1 shows you the account, the notes on it, the open entries in "Customer Diary" where things are logged, and even calls the branch version of the ISA Servicing Team to query what is meant to happen. There are zero entries in anything relating to your calls to the ISA Servicing team in the past week. In the end, he has made an entry in the Customer Diary going directly to the ISA Complex Servicing team as per their "KIT" system and you're satisfied it will be sorted.>

* This may have been adapted based on my thoughts at the time - was not actually said. But the situation to date was explained.
1 This is his real name. Naveed from the Accrington branch of Barclays. He's a great guy and was really helpful, despite him being unable to do anything himself. I have no issues with him or what he did for me as it was very helpful and informative.

But you lied to yourself. You weren't satisfied at all with what Naveed has done. I mean, you were, but you just wanted to double check with yourself that another team in Barclays could see his request. You call your Premier team again.

Hi, I've been misinformed so many times that I've just come from a branch meeting to close my ISA, can you double check that you can see his request to close it for the ISA Complex Servicing team?

Sure let me look into that for you. I can't see any request from today, but I can see an original request made over a week ago that the ISA Complex team either haven't received or haven't responded to, this is very unusual

<WTF? They can see the original request, that Naveed in-branch couldn't see, but not the one that you've just seen with your own eyes?

Interesting - I'm satisfied that the request has gone through in-branch I just need to know it's going to be dealt with hence calling you to double check.

OK what I'm doing to do is make additional logs and make sure it's all in your notes and diarised in our system. The in-branch team can't see your notes and we can't see theirs. <Placed on hold>

That's all sorted for you. I've created 2 new requests via different methods and marked them all as urgent for you.

Thank you!

What more can you possibly do? You've been in branch, online, and telephone to several different teams all in the space of a week and still no closer (in real terms) to a resolution. Let's hope that one of the requests goes through.

Scenario over...

That's the description of an extremely simple problem that has been mishandled. It may seem more ranty than anything so far, but I'm trying to explain the scenario and how I as the customer felt when trying to deal with it. Obviously, at time of writing, this still isn't resolved. When, in fact, if I actually get to see my money again, I'll update the article and write more about why it's terrible.

Now, you may have noticed some key points in the conversations that happened, specifically: Everyone has a different system to work from.

How is it, that in 2015, somebody on the telephone and somebody in branch cannot see what each person has done?

If you need help with your bank

Seriously Barclays, you've obviously fragmented your service & support systems and have terrible management to try and keep them all inline. If you need professional advice, we can definitely help you out at Cedita ;-)