Monday, November 13, 2006

More on the bank credit card saga

Well, the credit card I made a previous post about finally arrived. They obviously approved it after my less than happy conversation with them where I told them to cross reference my existing credit card for the information they wanted.

I suppose I should give a little bit of background to set the context. The new card is EXACTLY the same as the old card. ie. same bank, same type etc. They are IDENTICAL except for the credit card number. The obvious question to ask here is why did I bother getting an identical card. Well, as with any typical credit card, the old one has an annual fee. About a month ago, I found out I was eligible to have this type of card with no annual fee as part of a "limited marketing promotion". Essentially, it's free (I know nothing's really free and we could get into a philosophical discussion about costs associated with giving up data for marketing and sales purposes and the potential long term effects, but in the simplistic sense of looking at it in terms of subscription costs, it's free).

I called the bank to ask if I could simply have the special rate code applied to my card instead of the one that says I have to pay an annual fee. I was advised that I had to apply for a new one. From a customer service perspective, this is a REALLY stupid and annoying thing to make your customers do and creates unnecessary paperwork at the back end (which means the customers just get charged more to fund this extremely inefficient process). Now, I'm no expert on bank regulations and there may indeed be laws prohibiting them from simply giving me the special rate code on an existing card, but I have a feeling it has more to do with an artificial process set up to ensure that someone in marketing or sales within the bank could have the marketing code linked to all "new" credit cards issues within the promotional period. So with this in mind, I accepted the fact that it just had to be done. The customer service representative however, decided that they would make me "feel better" by telling me that it wasn't a big deal to have to apply for the new IDENTICAL card because once it was approved they would automatically transfer EVERYTHING from my old card to the new one and automatically cancel the old one (once I had activated the new one) and notifying me. Now I took EVERYTHING to mean the balance, the credit limit and my reward points. So, I hung up at least satisfied in the fact there was some sanity in this inefficient and unnecessary process - although I was skeptical that this would be automated. I half expected that I would have to call to get it actioned.

I eventually called to activate my card and as with most bank IVR systems it didn't want to let me activate it the prescribed way. You know, the recorded voice tells you to enter the card number followed by "#" then it asks for your date of birth and then it should activate your card automatically without having to talk to a customer service representative. Well, true to form this didn't work and I was sent to a customer service representative. Problem with this was that I called to activate a card and while waiting what seemed an age, they managed to read a few pre-prepared statements trying to sell me insurance I don't need and offered the fact that I could get a cash advance on my credit card while paying their low interest rates. They're also taught to not ask if you want something. They're taught to say "would you like option 1 or option 2". I of course said that I would like neither and would just like my card activated. Then came the "are your sure sir" to which I replied "yes I'm sure I don't need that".

After a few more sales pitches, they finally came through and told me my card was now active and that I should remember to sign it. You know, the usual. I thought right then and there would be a good opportunity for me to ask about transferring EVERYTHING from my old card to my new card. I explained the situation (twice) and was met with the response "I'm sorry sir, but you cannot do that." I was incredulous! I started to explain the situation (again) but this time I mentioned that when I called the first time, I was told by one of their colleagues that this was indeed possible and was the norm and they fully expected that customers would ask for this and that they would do it willingly...actually, they said they would do it AUTOMATICALLY! Despite my insistence, they stood firm and said I simply had to pay off the balance on my old card and use my points up before cancelling it. So not only did they not do the transfer automatically (like I suspected they would not be able to do), they fed me incorrect information in the first place! I wonder if they did it on purpose just to get me to sign up for the new card.

I'm not unhappy at the fact that I had to get the new card. I would have done it anyway because of the "free" aspect. What I didn't like about the way they did it was that I was not told the real story up front. Now it may have truly been a lack of education on the part of the customer service representative I spoke to initially, but that's still a problem! If you don't know the answer, don't give one. Say you have to find out and get back to me with the right answer! It's all about customer perception and right now, this customer has a rather dim view of this bank! (Aside: Reminds me certain shady deals in Asia specifically targeting tourists where they do not fully disclose where they will take you. e.g. You sign up for a tour which promises 2 specific tourist attractions but what they "forget" to tell you is that there's about 5 other "tourist attractions" disguised as shops which pay the tour operators commission for bringing tour groups to the store.)

Now I'm stuck with 2 IDENTICAL credit cards, one of which I have to pay for until I figure out how to use all my reward points up on things I probably don't really need right now. It's either that or I simply lose all the points.

I've managed to come up with the following observations as a result of this rather painful experience:
  • If this bank cannot have their internal systems linked in such a fashion where they can provide an efficient and single view of a customer (which one can argue are the most important pieces of information/data held in ALL of the bank's systems), what hope do they have of providing me with acceptable security on my identity data and my banking experience let alone anything with privacy implications? They don't even "identity manage" my data from a customer management perspective (classic CRM stuff) - so based on my experience with companies in my day job (companies fix business related things before they fix IT related things), there's no chance in hell that they'll have any acceptable security measures in place from an identity and security standpoint! Or in IT speak, they don't manage my identity in their business critical applications, so it's unlikely they'll bother with proper identity management at the IT infrastructure level. BIG problem. Somebody at this bank better fix this...and SOON!
  • I've pointed out that their processes leave a lot to be desired from a security standpoint. My previous post on this issue showed how they are subject to phone phishing. They should really get someone in to fix their enterprise security. Right from the policies and procedures to their infrastructure and application security.
  • Training of call centre employees is of the utmost importance. To us customers, they are the voice/face of the bank. An experience like the one I've just had sullies the whole bank's image, even if it's the fault of a single employee (who may not have been at fault - you could argue it is the bank's fault for not training this person properly).
  • This bank uses an offshore call centre. I don't want to get into a "to offshore or not to offshore, that is the question" debate. It obviously made financial operational sense to do it in the case of this bank otherwise they would not have done it. But is it really worth saving that kind of money if you annoy the crap out of all your customers? I'm sure I'm not the only one who's been jerked around by the bank and their call centre (or indeed any bank with an offshore call centre). All I want to say is, if you offshore, it is even MORE critical that you ENSURE the employees are properly trained and are provided with the correct information and relevant internal support infrastructure to allow them to get the right messages out to customers. Don't give an answer if you don't know it! Because if you do and you're wrong, then the customer just feels like the bank lied to them! Not good!
  • I will NEVER use this bank for anything other than my "free" credit card from now on.
  • Where's the bank's customer feedback form?!

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