Coming in Threes
You know how it is – life is ok for a while and everything more or less works. Some minor niggles, something goes wrong perhaps but it is soon fixed or can be parked for the future and then bang! like the proverbial No 11 bus they all come at once.
Banging our Heads against Banks
The MAC Partnership has been involved in a prolonged and head-banging dialogue with Barclays our bankers for over a year trying to achieve a simple administrative task – adding a person to our internet account with the authority to make payments. The saga of lost pieces of paper and endless delay while the ‘customer service team’ conferred and promised to phone back will be familiar to all who have gone a few rounds with their banks but the unexpected one that amazed us all was the sending of our data, equipment and PIN to a local Park User Group. This rang a chord with me since in the summer I had asked for a replacement bank statement and some time later found I had been sent the statements for a football club in Wales and a Somali refugee centre in Birmingham. Where my statement went, no one knows. A nice man called Alec took my details, gave me a reference number and disappeared. We still have no solution after a year to letting one more Partner use the internet banking facility.
The key block to solutions here is that when the team – see ‘customer service’ above – is in charge, no one is in charge. When no one is in charge, no one ever phones you back or if they do or you phone again, they know nothing. Also since they have no history or experience of the account, they tell us that it is impossible to do things which we have been doing for 5 years. This is the world of the customer service team – unable to connect with or comprehend a world that is not on their screen, unable to call with confidence on other parts or people in the bank to help them sort out their – well not their actually – customer’s problem. The internal emphasis of Barclays as experienced is to end the call not resolve the case. The customer is always someone else’s.
We have been passed from relationship manager to complaint department to special services team to web development to branch business manager. For over a month we have been trying to get our Business Manager to ring us. Every time we are told she or he will call back in 3 hours and a week later there is still silence. We have spent an estimated 5 or more hours on 0845 numbers. In the meantime Barclays are as far as we can tell in serious breach of data protection regulations. In the meantime of course we still cannot get the third partner permission to use the site. View it – OK. Do anything useful with it – no. Ombudsman as well I think. Of course if we had wanted a loan or an overdraft they would have been all over us.
Complaints and Sod’s Law – how bad things keep happening to good people
Of course it is not just banks that get it wrong – even when complaint handlers are trying hard, taking responsibility and sorting stuff out, their lack of success in getting something sorted can still provide a decent anecdote or two for the Sod’s Law training session. Specs handed in for repair to Boots were not returned and no one could tell me where they were or when they migth be back. Central customer service was involved since I am a lazy man and thought that they would be able to pull the strings and sort stuff out while I was away. Also I have reason to know that they are a well-trained and professional bunch.
Emails were exchanged and promises made and then the final call that they were ready and in the shop. Except they could not be found when I turned up. The manager had them in her drawer – eager no doubt to make the handover herself but alas she was not around. Another phone call and a second visit since the postie’s strike made posting them problematic and I have my specs plus a cost waived and a Boots Gift card. There was a solution and I think I will go back to Boots for the next pair but even here in spite of efforts to resolve, Sod’s Law meant that once one thing had gone wrong, lots went wrong. Even the generous gesture of refund plus gift card funds came over as rather hesitant since the person who finally saw me had to pick the story up by reading post-its and bits of paper atttached to the spectacle case. I got the glasses but felt glum and as for Boots Optician in Croydon, all that effort and expenditure with what result – a customer rescued and twice as loyal as they were before? Don’t know.
Opening Wider on Dentists’ Complaint Data
This was all prompted by seeing a survey done about complaints about private dental care. I know the man who was instrumental in getting their Dental Complaints Service – the escalated complaint handling system for private complaints set up – Derek Prentice ex of Consumers’ Association and a long time believer in the power of an effective way of resolving complaints.
They got some uncomfortable answers but were brave enough to publish them. All the data is actionable and useful – the 26% with a problem who did not complain plus the reasons why not – fear of the consequences, ‘not worth it’, did not have the confidence to see it through. The % satisfied amongst those who did complain to the practice? Low at 53%.
The central service was seen as doing better with 85% rating them as good or excellent when it came to responding with the time promised; 98% rating the overall attitude and courtesy as excellent or good (84% excellent). Encouragingly enough, the dental professionals liked them too. Too often those on the ground, the front line see themselves as shafted by the people at ‘head office’ flinging money around and agreeing solutions which appear ludicrously biased towards complainants, all too often labelled as ‘vexatious’. On the attributes of attitude and courtesy 98% rated them as excellent or good (79% excellent.) So once people get to the escalated service they are OK.
However the main point I wanted to make was that it is good to see the data – I am sure Boots collects data about satisfaction and probably Barclays too. Let us see that data and then we can tell what is going on and more importantly so can the people within the company who either do not see the data at all or bin it when they do. The thought that it might emerge into the public domain would concentrate minds.
Bye Bye WM
Which reminds of the great achievement – one of many – of Walter Merricks at the Financial Ombudsman Service where his service now names the worst offenders. I missed his leaving party on 8th October and so must say our farewells in this blog. Great work and we hope to be in touch again soon.