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Jon Kennard


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Banks – who needs them?


The subject of this blog post today is Barclays Bank. Their incompetence. Their contempt for their customers. Their out-of-date communications methods that dissuade potential dissenters from following through their more-than-legitimate complaints due to the protracted nature of any such pursuit.

The brief back story: I went to Vietnam last summer. I bought a suit. I liked it so much I decided to buy another one - possibly for my wedding - when I got back to England and have it shipped to the UK. I knew that this wouldn't be that straightforward, but I figured that Barclays being a massive international financial services institution with offices all around the world, would consider this in their remit to be able to sort out. Not so. Without going into every detail, I spent over two hours in total on the phone to Barclays, made several international phone calls too, got charged through the nose by the intermediary bank without being told upfront that I would be, and the best thing? I still don't have the suit.

So I thought, enough is enough. I've just set up a joint account with my girlfriend at Natwest for bills/baby/wedding-related stuff, I'll move over there. Ethical options were unfortunately not a consideration due to previous credit rating indiscretions from my student days. Moving to Natwest was somewhat a move out of the frying pan, but I had few other options, and I sure as heckfire wasn't staying with the blue meanies. And at least Natwest offered stuff like paperless billing, and had an iPhone app that worked extremely well for the basics that would have taken 3 options on an automated voicemail and a bust blood vessel down the road.

So onto stage two - close down my old bank account. Natwest have to admit partial culpability here, as part of the reason I chose the account that I did is that they said they'd switch everything over for me - and didn't. I assumed that they had done though, and was only alerted to the fact that I still had an account with Barclays when I received a statement from them a month later saying I was in the red. I paid the balance off. The tellers at my local branch sent off the closing letter. A month later my account remained open. I phoned up Barclays. I told them the situation. They said they'd close it down - that day. Three weeks later my account remained open (accruing interest and account charges all the time, I might add).

Today the gentleman I spoke to said that he had closed my account down, while we were on the phone. I had no right to believe him. I don't believe him - until I see a letter come through the post informing me I am no longer a Barclays customer. Could it actually happen?

This blog post isn't about the shortcomings of people - it's about the shortcomings of process. The CSRs and counter staff have all without exception been very nice and polite, and I'm sure they all thought they were being helpful, but somewhere along the way the process broke down. The Barclays customer service training is working well - to a point. This is a huge organisation, and the various different teams seem not to talk to each other. No-one knew my situation when I phoned up and I had to start from scratch every single time. For want of a less jargon-ey term, their approach to their customers is not 'joined up'. With a centralised database and one record for each customer, Barclays could then start training their staff to treat customers like they're people and not just like they're a pile of money, stress-tested and prioritised according to financial worth.

Barclays has many dozens of happy customers around the world I'm sure, and for ten years I was one of them until I asked them to do a couple of things that veered off the map. It reminds me of what the actor playing the surgeon must be feeling in the Truman Show when all eyes are on him to do something he feels isn't part of his job. But in fact it is.

2 Responses

  1. Aaaargh, I am with you there

    As  someone who used to work in banking & still has the odd contact there, my frustration with banks now is that they do not actually allow their staff to take responsibility for decisions (computers are sooooo much better I hear) and so we cannot be surprised when in fact their employees do not take responsibility…..

    The reality is that so many skills are being lost in banking because they are no longer valued. 

    My husband logged a simple complaint nearly a year ago. We still get regular letters telling us they are looking into it but have yet to find an answer. The letters arrive like clockwork because that’s what the law tells the bank they must do, but allow a person to make a decision, well there is no legislation for that at the moment. Given the way that the banks are operating at present, until there is, the talents of a lot of people remain under utilised.

  2. The banking system

    The banking system has been subsidized for years and propped up when things go badly so they have little consequences for their actions. Shareholders have no power or desire to limit pay. Congress coffers are flush with millions of dollars in bank money and have no will to change anything. Yes we need bankers to fully expand economies but we don’t need them dictating to us our monetary policies or how we create our own currency.

    Alice from Island Loans

Author Profile Picture
Jon Kennard

Freelance writer

Read more from Jon Kennard

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