Do you treat your customers as guilty until proven innocent?

Over the past 6 weeks, I’ve had the great misfortune to be put on trail – I’ve been questioned numerous times, told to submit electronic  and paper documents, I’ve been held up for hours, and faced lots of frustration, uncertainty, worry and doubt.  You might be wondering what terrible crime I have been charged with?  My crime was quite simply that I expected my credit card company to credit back a refund to my account.  In today’s post, I’ll share how this major UK high street bank made me feel guilty until proven innocent, just because I wanted to get my own money back.

The story started in January – I booked a hotel for a trip to the USA.  The hotel took a deposit to secure the booking, and confirmed everything was arranged.  Due to a change of circumstances, I decided to change cities, so booked another hotel elsewhere.  Because the hotel deposit was refundable, I simply cancelled via the online booking site I’d used, and waited for my refund.

After a couple of weeks, I still hadn’t received the refund, so I contacted the booking website.  After some time and effort, I got the hotel details, and after a couple more emails, got confirmation from the hotel that they had already issued the refund as soon as I requested it.  The hotel very kindly sent proof of the refund, with transaction details, card numbers and bank references.  This left me confused.  I double-checked my online account and credit card statements – no sign of the refund there, so then I decided to contact the bank.

Unfortunately, there was no way to raise the issue with the bank, other than calling, which was not very convenient.  After 25 minutes of bland hold music and generic marketing messages on a short loop, I got through to someone.  I explained the situation, they put me on hold, then transferred me.  I repeated my story to the next person – they were empathetic and said they would “raise a case.” (“Where are they raising it from”,  I wondered!)

After another 20 minutes, the case was raised.  “Now my colleagues in disputes will be in contact in 10 working days”, chirped the charming chap.  “Disputes?  I’m not disputing anything!”, I thought.  10 working days (or as most of us call it, 2 weeks) later, a generic email arrived.  Various details were wrong, including the amount I was chasing.  The email told me that I needed to supply no less than 8 different documents and proof of my transaction in writing, in order to proceed.  And the icing on the cake?  “Once received, we will contact you within 10 working days.” Another 2 weeks to wait and still no resolution?!

Those who know me well know that I am not the most patient person, especially when it comes to poor service.  Why make me wait 10 days to tel me to send in proof of what I have discussed?  Since the bank hold all the transaction information, why would I need to prove the transaction to them?  And worst of all, I was £350 out of pocket whilst the bank dithered over sorting this out and getting my money back in my account.  I was guilty until proven innocent.

At this point, I picked up the phone – the phone number supplied directed me to a wrong part of the bank, too.  I won’t go into detail, but suffice to say, 25 years working in customer service and customer experience comes in handy sometimes.  Two hours later having raised a formal complaint (all banks fear complaints, as they have to report them to the regulator!) they had magically found the missing refund, agreed to moved it to my account, and immediately transferred a hefty sum to cover the inconvenience, call costs and time wasted.

I cleared the remaining balance on that credit card later that week, cut up the cards and closed my account and switched my business to their competitor.  The ONLY way to get through to big businesses who don’t value their customers is to vote with your feet!

If you read this story and cringed, then I’m pleased – you clearly see that poor customer experiences are unacceptable.  If you were cringing because some aspects sounded all too familiar with regards your own customer experience, then I hope this will be the catalyst to make some change.  Show a little more respect to your customers, otherwise, just like me, they will vote with their feet and switch to the competition!

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