Sometimes I am asked to help people make complaints. In a previous role I handed complaints for a large government body and now use that experience to assist friends and family who are dissatisfied with a product or service. In the majority of cases the problem is caused by delay, unclear or ineffective communication or processes designed to suit the organization rather than the customer.
Last week I had reason to write to the Chief Executive of a large British bank, about the way that his organization handled a transaction for my elderly parents. My late grandfather’s house, which had been in the family for 77 years, was sold and the proceeds were due to be placed in my father’s account as the executor. From there it would be distributed to the other beneficiaries. My mother visited her local branch, informed them that the money would arrive soon and asked them to facilitate the transfers.
The day after the money entered the account she received a letter from the bank, saying that the account had been suspended due to a potentially fraudulent transaction. She immediately phoned the number given and, after an hour or so of confusing IVRs and annoying music, was told that nobody could assist with this problem because it was a Saturday.
The matter has now been resolved but it raises important questions. Given that 9000 customers of another bank were affected by fraud this week we should be grateful that banks are watching out for suspect transactions, whilst remembering that they gave us tap and go to inspire petty thieves.
In this instance the bank were told about this particular transaction in advance and could easily have sought clarification by telephoning or emailing the customer. Pending that clarification they could have suspended the transactions in question, whilst allowing other routine transfers and withdrawals to go through. Instead they left two vulnerable people without access to money for a whole weekend.
If the authorities want to freeze a person’s bank account they have to apply for a warrant, with appropriate justification. The banks apparently have the power to do this on a mere suspicion of irregularities and via an automated process. Others have reported similar experiences to me, suggesting that it is not an isolated occurrence.
Whilst awaiting an explanation I am watching my wife mark coursework. Right now I would give this particular bank an E- for both service and effort and have suggested that my parents close their account. Switching to a competitor is often a more effective way of registering discontent than making a complaint.