Dumb and Dumber?

I did something kind of dumb the other day. I’m hoping that my bank doesn’t compound my stupidity, but I’m not hopeful. Let me give you the details since they’re a good example of how any business gets opportunities to build customer loyalty and how they often whiff on the chances.

Dumb and Dumber

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First, my dumb thing.  I paid a bunch of bills via my bank’s website.  I had plenty of money in one account but had failed to transfer it into the bill paying account.  Fortunately, I realized this when many of us remember stuff: just as I was going to bed.  However, since there had usually been a lag time in between when I “paid” the bills and when the bank actually transferred the money, I figured I’d do it first thing in the morning.  I got up and my bank account showed it was overdrawn.  I transferred the money from another account (in the same bank) to cover the bills and figured I was ok since I hadn’t received the email from the bank that they had paid the bills.  This is now when the bank’s opportunity began.

Just to be on the safe side, I called customer service.  The person who helped me looked at the account history and said “oh, you’re going to get hit with overdraft charges.  The good news is that even though you paid 10 bills, you max at out 5 charges at a time.”  At $37 each, that’s not such good news, actually.  She said that since the charges had not hit yet she couldn’t remove them but asked me to call back after 2 when they should be on the account and someone else would help me.  Apparently, the bank debits the money immediately even though they don’t notify you that they’ve paid the bill.

When I called back and asked to speak with a supervisor, I was told that there was nothing she could do since it was my mistake.  Let me now put this chance into context.  The supervisor saw that there was plenty of money in another account.  She saw that we have multiple checking, savings, health care, IRA, brokerage accounts and a safe deposit box with the bank.  I have a bank-issued credit card as well.  Oh – we’ve also been customers since 1981.

How was this loyalty reciprocated?  With $185 in fees.  After a few minutes, the supervisor credited back 2 of them, saying she wasn’t supposed to do this.  She suggested I call my branch and maybe someone there could help.  By now it was late on Friday and while I did speak with someone at the branch, they suggested we chat today since the managers had left.

So how did my dumb mistake lead to the bank being dumb?  First, how can a customer service supervisor not have the authority to do what she believes is best for the customer?  Either she hadn’t been empowered or she was lying to me – neither is acceptable.  Second – one thing for which my town doesn’t lack is banks.  If the $111 in fees is worth more to them than my business over 35 years, so be it.  Maybe the 3 banks literally across the street feel differently.  Ignoring the fact that banking has become commoditized to a large extent and not providing a service edge is dumb.

Great customer service means great customer retention.  Over-delivering on customer expectations and rewarding loyalty are tow of the most basic tenets of that.  I was dumb – they’re being dumber, so far.  We’ll see how I fare at the branch.

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Filed under Huh?, Reality checks

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