Tuesday, August 12, 2008

5 Tips for Customer Service (yeah you, Bank of America)

Wow. Just...Wow. Check out this back and forth I just had with Bank of America Customer Service over email:

My email:
I recently signed up with a credit card through you guys
with my wife, Janet. Our credit card information shows up when
she logs into her Bank of America account, but it does not for me. Can
this be corrected?


Their response:
Dear Ryan,

Thank you for your inquiry dated 8/9/08 regarding adding an account to
your Online Banking profile. We will be happy to assist you.

To ensure that the information we provide is correct and that any
changes we make are according to your wishes, please reply to this
e-mail with the following information:

- Please provide the credit card number?

Also, did you know that you can get answers to frequently asked
questions by clicking on the Help feature in Online Banking? If you have
a question specific to a particular function or feature in Online
Banking, you can click on the Help link in the upper right corner of
that specific page and you will be able to find pertinent information
for that feature of Online Banking. If you are new to Online Banking, we
also recommend you access the Test Drive located on the Account Overview
page, above your Account details on the right side of the page.

We value you as a customer and appreciate your business. If we may be of
further assistance, please contact us again by e-mail. Thank you for
choosing Bank of America.


John Chippis
Bank of America

My Reply (omitting my credit number for y'all):
Credit Card number is:
xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx

Their answer:
Dear Ryan,

Thank you for your inquiry dated 8/10/08 regarding the credit card
account. Your concerns are very important to us and we will be happy to
assist you.

We understand that you wish to view an additional credit card in Online
Banking. We show that the credit card account which you provided is not
listed under your profiled.

As mentioned in our previous response, please keep in mind that in order
to view an account online, your name must be listed as an account owner
or co-owner. Otherwise, you will not be able to view the account online
under your Online ID.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. If we may be of
further assistance, please contact us again by e-mail. We value you as a
customer and appreciate your business. Thank you for choosing Bank of


Sandra Green
Bank of America

I fire back:
Your previous response did not mention that, which makes me feel like I
am getting form emails send back to me. Not sure why I wouldn't be an
owner or co-owner of the card. I double checked the number I provided,
and it is correct. The card has both my name (Ryan) on it, and
my picture (I'm wearing a yellow shirt!).

If this cannot be resolved in your response, please just let me know the
best phone number to call so that I can take care of this in one try.

Thank you.

(Note that my original response was longer than this, and actually quoted their response, however, they only allow you a maximum of 10 lines of text. Why? Because apparently they would rather stretch out the back and forth as much as possible, wasting everyone's time)

Unbelievably, they have the nerve to respond (I censored last 4 of CC#):
Dear Ryan,

Thank you for your inquiry dated 8/11/08 regarding the ownership of an
account. We are happy to assist you.

Our records show that you are an authorized user on the account ending
-XXXX. Authorized users are not considered liable cardholders and may
not request certain changes on the account.

In order to have an account under your Online ID, you must be either a
primary or a co-applicant on that account. A co-applicant has the same
authority and liability on the account as the primary applicant. We
apologize for any confusion.

We appreciate the opportunity to assist you online. Should you have any
further inquiries, please e-mail us again. Thank you for choosing Bank
of America. We value your business and look forward to serving your
banking needs. Have a great day.

Janice Croissant, Bank of America

What. The. $#%@.

There are so many things wrong with this exchange that I don't know where to begin (of course you know I'm about to try...).

1. Know your customer. Why is it that when I send a secure email through Bank of America's website (meaning that I am signed in at the time), they need to ask for my credit card number? I have one credit card with them, and it is clear that they are not just asking for "security purposes".

2. Form emails are not acceptable customer service. Seth Godin preaches over and over that a customer reaching out to you is a valuable resource, and whether a praise or complaint, it is an opportunity to enhance the relationship. The first email is CLEARLY a form email (actually, they all seem to be). 1 sentence of content (asking for my credit card number), and 9 sentences of 'thanking' and 'educating'. Of course, as your customer, all I see is that you typed six relevant words into a form that you copied and pasted to me.

3. Defining my problem does not resolve it. You know the proverb "Give a man a fish and you have fed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime"? Bank of America did neither. They told me to go fishing. Here is what they could have said during our first exchange:
"For some strange reason you are not listed as an owner of this card. Please have your wife give us a call so she can add you as one. Actually, let me have her address and I will send out the authorization form today."
Problem solved. Instead, it took three emails and 1 phone call to reach that conclusion. And don't get me started on the idiocy of mailing out paper forms to be mailed back with signatures when you have a perfectly good system of authentication and authorization built into the website I'm already using to communicate with you.

4. Address all of my concerns or requests. I asked them for a phone number if the problem could be resolved. It was not, and instead they asked that I email them again. Seriously. Were you even reading my email? I would not be surprised if these emails were all generated automatically.

5. Don't pass me around your office. Each reply from BOA was from a different person. Unless you are responding the same day, and the original person helping me has gone home for the night, please don't pass off each request to a new person. It's inefficient and impersonal. If the first person cannot solve the problem, the next person I talk to should be able to. What does that say about your organization if your customer service people cannot resolve problems? I understand everyone cannot know everything, but my problem is not unique...your large organization has already had this exact request dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of times. Direct me to someone who can help.

And sadly for them, somehow, this little incident may be the straw that broke the camels back. Goodbye BOA. I will take my business someplace that makes me happy. Well, happy might be a stretch...let's just say: less angry.

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