The banking industry can do better when it comes to customer service. A customer experience research firm, Temkin Group, gives banks in the United States a grade of 67 per cent— just “OK” — and says the industry’s rating for consumer satisfaction has fallen from 71 per cent in 2015.
Meanwhile, research from the NTT Data Consulting, a consulting and data firm for the financial services industry, finds that one in three bank customers has had a problem that’s never been completely resolved. Of the complaints that are resolved, 72 per cent required the customer to have two or more interactions with the bank.
“We thought that was shocking,” says Patricia Sahm, one of the lead researchers. “There’s a gap between how banks think they are resolving things versus how customers think things are being resolved.”
Banks are working hard to provide better customer service, a senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, Pamela Banks, says.
Still, in large part, it’s up to consumers to advocate for themselves to get banking problems resolved. In Nigeria, data on banks’ performance from independent firms are still being expected.
Here are some things you can do to try to make sure your bank listens, according to www.bankrate.com.
Take a breath
It’s certainly not a good idea to try to resolve your complaint while you’re hopping mad.
“If you are upset, calm down. Talk to a friend. Rant. Rave. Punch a pillow. Eat chocolate in slow motion like they do on commercials,” the Executive Editor of Consumer Reports’ Consumerist, Meg Marco, says.
It’s understandable why you may be upset, says Adrian Swinscoe, a business consultant who advises on strategy, marketing and team performance issues.
“When you’re doing something that’s more integral to a person’s life, people just want that stuff to work, and they want it to work quickly and effectively,” he says.
There’s “a degree of surprise and ultimately frustration” when things don’t work smoothly, he says, especially when it comes to something as important as your money.
But Linda Sherry, a spokeswoman for Consumer Action, says that getting angry at a customer service representative makes it more likely that person will respond negatively.
Do your homework
Once you’ve calmed down, take time to do some research about your problem, Marco says. She says it’s important to know your rights before you call customer service.
Make sure you have the facts straight about your problem, including dates, your account number and erroneous costs. Look around the Internet, especially the CFPB’s website, to see if other people are having the same problems, and how they were resolved, Banks says.
Sometimes, a perceived error may simply be miscommunication on the part of the bank, says researcher Sahm, who’s currently a senior business adviser with Arrant Management Group. For instance, she says a consumer may not realise there was a fee tied to a new current account and may think the charge is erroneous.
Or similarly, she says there are limitations to what a bank can do to modify a mortgage loan in this regulatory environment.
“A bank may say, ‘We’ve created a solution.’ But a customer walks away saying, ‘That’s no solution,’” Sahm says. She suggests consumers come prepared to propose a solution.
Be a good customer
This is more of a long-term solution, but Consumer Action’s Sherry says there’s evidence that banks tend to be more willing to work with good customers.
“They do keep customer profiles,” Sherry says. “If you’ve bounced many cheques this year, they might not be as willing to work with you.”
Sherry says she has asked banks if they treat preferential customers differently in customer service queues and has gotten mixed responses.
Some banks offer special programmes that reward valued clients with better customer service, Sherry says.
For instance, some bank’s rewards programme gives a customer access to dedicated customer service specialists. Customers qualify for the programme by maintaining an average three-month balance of 100,000 or more with their bank and by having its personal current account.
Treat the customer service rep right
Remember: Stay calm. After you briefly explain the problem, ask for advice, Consumerist’s Marco says.
“I’d say, ‘Can you tell me what you usually recommend in this situation?’” Marco says. “Everything I say should motivate … the representative to join my cause, drop the official script and help me get my problem solved.”
Sherry also says it’s important to keep records of the customer service call and note the name of the customer service representative. That can help, especially if you need to call back or escalate your concern to another person.
Call back if necessary
Sometimes you’ll get a customer service representative who just isn’t helpful. Instead of pounding your head against the wall, take notes and then call back and get a different representative, Marco says.
“There are helpful people, and there are unhelpful people. That’s just how life works,” Marco says. “Mr. Cranky Bank Man’s dog probably pooped in his loafers this morning. Don’t let it get to you.”
Business consultant Swinscoe says his wife recently was locked out of her bank account. She had to call back multiple times to get a customer service rep who could help her.
Swinscoe suggests that there may be some people with more authority or skill levels than others and that customers may have to “game the system” to get to those people, like moving through an automated system by acting like you want to pay a bill.
Escalate your complaint to a manager
If you’re not getting what you need from the customer service representative, ask to speak with a manager or someone else who can address your needs.
“Usually, if you’re polite but firm, the representative will suggest this on his own,” Marco says.
If you’re having trouble going through the bank’s customer service department, try reaching out beyond the call centre, Sahm says. She suggests filing an “executive complaint” or “presidential complaint,” which would be sent to an area that generally handles complaints made to the company’s chief officers.
If all else fails, go to an outside agency
If you’re really not getting anywhere with your complaint, take all your notes and bring them to an outside agency like the Central Bank of Nigeria Consumer Protection Department for help, Marco says. You can file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Council, of you so wish.
Banks know (consumers) can file complaints with the CBN.
“Oftentimes, banks realise that now there’s this regulator out there looking over their shoulder, and it helps them to make sure the customer is happy,” Banks says
However, if that doesn’t happen, consumers should not shy away from filing a complaint with the CBN. She suggests going to the regulator if two calls made to the bank turn up fruitless.
What to do when banking goes wrong
No matter how careful you are, things occasionally go wrong. We’ve all been there, whether it’s a mistake on a payment, a charge levied incorrectly or a change to the terms and conditions you had not spotted.
Often, it is just a simple administration error that needs to be put right.
However, some disputes can become complex, and can help one to know what to do in certain situations. Here is how the complaints system works, according to www.telegraph.co.uk.
Drafting a complaint
Your first port of call is your bank. A mistake may be easy to correct once it is brought directly to a company’s attention.
Have the relevant information and paperwork to hand before you ring. Prepare bullet-pointed notes to avoid missing out salient information. Make a note of the date and time of your conversation, and the member of staff to whom you speak.
For serious issues, especially those of a contentious nature, it is better to post a written letter to the bank’s complaints department. This ensures there is physical evidence of your dissatisfaction. If a dispute escalates to an independent arbitrator, such as a financial ombudsman service or a court of law, it is useful to have an indisputable record of when you first raised the issue.
When writing, be clear that you are making a formal complaint. Either use “complaint” in the letter heading or write it into the first line.
Then think carefully about what exactly has gone wrong and why it has inconvenienced you, financially or otherwise.
State your problem in one or two complete sentences. Briefly explain the chronology and then detail the impact it has had. State the facts as concisely and logically as possible.
Specify exactly how you want the problem to be resolved. Be reasonable with your requests.
List the relevant details that will help the bank identify you as a customer: full name, address, postcode and telephone number, as well as the account number and sort code.
Include copies of any relevant paperwork that add evidence to your case. Do not send originals.
Throughout the complaints procedure, stay calm, focused and firm. It will not help to lose your temper, shout or become abusive.