Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Human Face

So the Next order finally arrives. Minus a packet of hair scrunchies.

I ring up and asked when I might be able to receive the missing goods, which aren't marked as being delayed on the order, and have been charged for.

"Well Mrs. Lomax. What you can do, is re-order the scrunchies, then I will send them to you - with NO POSTAGE - while we trace what has happened to the originals."

"No, you don't understand" I say. I've already paid for the item, so I now just need you to send them to me............

The conversation is long and unfruitful. I suggest to them that they may NOT want to lose my very loyal custom for a £2 packet of scrunchies. The next day, a parcel arrives, with scrunchies, and another addition to bill...............

I'll wait until the end of the month on that one, to see how many items I have been charged for.

Meanwhile, my other dear friends, the unmentionable large institution with four letters forming their name, run a critical illness insurance policy for me. It's paid for by monthly direct debit, on a certain day of the month that Hubby's pay goes into the account.

This month however, they decide, for their own reasons, one day before pay day, to call for the direct debit early. Knowing that it will not get paid, I ring the people who run our personal bank account at NatWest. They by now know me by name, so it cuts a lot of the time wasting out.

It seems too that they have a new system at the NatWest, where, quite brilliantly, you can choose to reverse a direct debit, as long as you call them before 2 p.m. on the day it is presented. Now of course, it does mean that you need to be addicted to the accounts on your computer like a hawk, but providing that you haven't got anything better to do with your time than play banks, you can actually win the game. In defence of NatWest, the bank that we recently changed to, they do seem to have realised that the branch system works and that human beings are actually better than machines. So, there are only another few thousand institutions to go, and then we can make progress............

So, I salvage the few remaining pounds back into our bank account to last us to pay day, the next day, and then go forth to tackle the "other lot" with four letters in their name and arrange for an online payment one day later.

"Hello Mrs. Lomax, please may I take characters 2 and 4 from your personal security number?" "But this is a life insurance policy, there is no personal security number". "It's the number that you set up on your account when you first opened it.............."

I rack my brains.

No number emerges from the fog.

I admit defeat to the four lettered bank and ask if there is some other way that we can sort this out.

"No problem", they say, "we'll reset your security number using your security questions."

This seems to be straightforward enough..............

The first question is:

"What's your memorable town?"

Sorry? I say.

"Oh, it's a town that you would have given us when you set up the account. Probably where you were born, or somewhere special that you lived."

I stop and think. I give them the name of the town where I was born. Yes. Jackpot.

Great. One down, two to go.

Now tell us the name of a special person.

Again I am baffled slightly by the question.

They explain in kind terms that it's likely to be my mother's maiden name, or another family members name. They also explain that it is a one shot system, so if I get it wrong I can't get through security.

"But, I don't know which name it is", I say. "I can give you my mother's maiden name, but I can't play "guess the question"!"

"Well I'm sorry Mrs. Lomax, but it's for your own security, and that's the way it's set up."

Knowing that I am playing Russian Roulette, I opt for my mother's maiden name.

I fail the test. I have not passed "go". I did not guess the question correctly. I cannot collect £200, (which is a shame because given the time of the month it would have been useful), and I cannot access the information to my life insurance account.

"So what now?" I say.

"We'll get the customer care team to call you, within the next day or so, and reset your security."

"NO!!!!!" I say. Shout. Scream even. "I demand to talk to the manager. I JUST WANT TO PAY YOU SOME MONEY!!!!"

The manager of the call centre cannot help, my stress levels rise uncontrollably, and so the chances of them having to actually pay out on my critical illness cover get higher. I finally give up and trounce off to phone the Chairman's Office of the four lettered bank.

Today a very nice man called Gary, from the four lettered bank, calls me. He is very happy to deal with me on a very human level. We sort everything out. I've got his direct line and full name and can call him with any queries. Everything is sorted, and Gary and I are best of friends.

It seems then that the way to tackle large institutions is to cut out all middlemen -call centres - and go straight to the top.

It will take time I acknowledge, but eventually, they'll realise that putting human contact back into banking might just be more efficient!


Beccy said...

Good for you sticking to your guns and demanding to speak to a person.

Keep campaigning for better service, it's something we all deserve.

I also hat all those security questions, I can never remember my answers and as I'm finickity my tastes change all the time!

Asha said...

Man! What you have to go thru for that scrunchies?!:D Hope you get it soon.

Security q's; that makes me tear my hair out.To log in to my virtual credit card bank,I have to go thru 3 q's and then they say,I have to check my mail for more codes to log in and this happens every time!!!!!

They make it so hard to get into my own account and then we find that somebody has charged $200 worth using our credit card no!! Security???

john.g. said...

You were lucky to get someone called Gary in Mumbai!!

Sally Lomax said...

Hi Beccy!

Did you ever get a reply back from Tesco?

Hi Asha1

That's appalling! $200!!!

John - Wasn't I!!!

Ignorminious said...

For a minute I wondered what you meant when you talked about waiting til the end of the month to see how much Next had charged you.

I'd completely forgotten that you used to have to wait for your monthly statement to find out what you'd spent money on. I don't even check my paper statements anymore. I set up internet banking at the same time as I set up my first bank account and I've never known anything else :)

Sally Lomax said...

Ig - I do most things online. But not Next. Thinking about it it's one of the few paper statements that I get now! I don't know if they do online billing......

I'll ask, and then I can find out how many £2 scrunchies I have paid for sooner!!!

ChrisB said...

I hate all these security questions and I can never remember them 'I'm always asking 'gisaclue'. You are nothing if not persistent well done. Nat west were quite good last week when they messed up two of my accounts and they did back date with some interest.

meredic said...

I forgot my number for the bank the other day. So they sent me a new one. I cant remember where I put the bloomin thing though,

Alice Band said...

I'm surprised that not more people suffer heart failure at the hands of figging call centers and their ilk. As John G said try talking to Mumbai. Alwyas charming, I am also always at pains not too sound racist - don't want a Shilpa Shetty siatuation over an insurance claim but you try telling someone thousands of miles away, being paid a pittance that you don;t want the loss adjuster calling between 8.45 and 9.30 and 2.50 and 3.30 due to the school run. It's just so exhhausting to explain. I am gald that my dear grandmother is no longer with us becasue she used to talk to my answer phone as though it were my secretary, "Oh, um hello, could you tell ALice I called please" What chance would she have in a 'Press 1, press zero' world? Who'd hahve thought that scrunchies and banks could send us to the edge?!! Great post Sally.

Sally Lomax said...

Chris - In my limited experience Natwest seem to be winning the battle when it comes to bank customer care.

Meredic - Maybe it's under the courgettes?

Alice - I love the sound of your grandmother! Brilliant!

Norma said...

It isn't just human contact, it is the technology they manipulate. I was one of thousands whose identifying numbers were stolen recently at our university where I worked. In order to get some sort of protection from the use of these numbers by crooks we have to submit these same numbers to some sort of faceless company (I call it a protection racket), which probably has no better firewall or security than the university did, and less accountability.

Good luck with your scrunchies.

elena jane said...

omg, i would have given up with next on the day you made the phone call. i prefer online purchasing. at least then it's MY computer's fault ;-)
we misordered a part for the vac some weeks ago and they sent a new one, gratis and didn't even want the old one back. but i did speak to someone in bombay i think! ;)

Sally Lomax said...

Norma! That's dreadful about the university records!
EJ - It's tempting to give up! Real shops are appealing!