A Tale of Two Calls: Customer Service Despair and Delight

By Peter DeHaan, Ph.D.

Peter DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of AnswerStatI recently experienced poor customer service and great customer service – on the same day, from the same organization.

By choice I bank locally. My bank has a main office and two branches. For fourteen years, I’ve always banked at the same branch. When I make a deposit, I use the lobby. This isn’t because I have an aversion to drive-through convenience but because face-to-face is more personal. I want to know those who handle my money and – more importantly – I want them to know me.

When I needed to see if a check cleared, I went online. I thought it would be faster. My login was denied. I doubled-checked and tried again. Again, I was denied access. Next, I tried the bank-by-phone option. The response there was “invalid password.” A second attempt produced the same result.

The bank keeps its records at the main office, so I expected the staff there to be able to answer my question faster than the staff I knew at the local branch. Surely they would just need to call the main office anyway.

Though the woman at the main office understood my request, she took a long time to answer my question. Repeated holds were part of the process. Finally, she gave me the information and was about to hang up, but I stopped her. “Remember, I said I can’t log in to online banking or bank-by-phone.” She sighed and put me on hold again.

After a while she returned, telling me what to do when I’ve forgotten my password. “I didn’t forget it; it’s just not working.” She did some typing and consulted with her co-worker again, this time without putting me on hold. A customer shouldn’t have heard their conversation.

Confused, she told me to try again. Then she said I was locked out because of too many failed login attempts. Gee, I was just doing what you told me.

There was more conferring with her co-worker. Her next words jarred me. “To reset your password, you have to fax in written authorization.” She wouldn’t help me until I did. This was likely a wise precaution, but how she presented it was disconcerting. I’d already invested forty minutes in this fiasco, and now more was required.

“That is most disappointing,” I said and ended the call.

I began grousing. I don’t have to do anything. It’ll be faster to cancel my accounts than to fax in my request. While switching banks might have been emotionally satisfying, it wasn’t practical and certainly not something to be done in haste.

I was still stewing when the phone rang. It was the branch manager; we’re on a first-name basis. She apologized for her co-worker’s miscommunication. For security purposes, the bank recently required every customer to change all their passwords; we were locked out until we did.

Apparently, they hurriedly hired this person to address the deluge of phone calls. It seems that on-the-job training was their method, and I was an unwitting partner.

In the time it took to explain this, the manager had reset my passwords and I could log in. We would handle the paperwork later. That afternoon, after I cooled off, I drove to my local branch to thank the manager and sign the needed form.

The manager’s exemplary response overcame the shortcomings of her co-worker. It was a stellar example of customer service recovery, yet one that wouldn’t have been necessary if the first person done her job better.

Inadequate training resulted in an unhappy customer and a manager who needed to fix a problem that shouldn’t have occurred. Proper training would have avoided all this.

Peter DeHaan is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat magazine and a passionate wordsmith. Connect with him on his personal blogs, social media sites, and newsletter, all accessible from peterdehaan.com.

[From the April/May 2014 issue of AnswerStat magazine]