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Alienating your customers from the start

2. December 2008 by james 0 Comments

People tend not to change their current accounts very often or even at all and there are some pretty obvious reasons why.  The biggest reason I would guess is around apathy, can I be bothered to go through the hassle of changing everything over to a new bank (even if they do promise to do it all for me), is it going to be so much better for me to make the effort?

I've banked with Lloyds TSB now for 12 years since I opened my first current account at the age of 16 and for the most part I've been fairly happy with them.  Just recently though they've become a nuisance due to an issue they have with generating false fraud alerts when accounts make external debit card payments using 3D-Secure to certain other banks.  My account has been regularly blocked and I got to the point when I though it time to see if someone else could do better.

About a month ago I went through the application process for Halifax (a not very Firefox friendly experience) and awaited my cards, cheque books (so I can lose them), online credentials and the magic account transfer process from Lloyds to begin.

Unfortunately, things went downhill from there:

  • The PIN mailer for the credit card was illegible when the security tab was removed (requested a new one)
  • The customer services number on the letter for any issues relating to the above PIN mailer was wrong - it wasn't customer services, it was the lost and stolen number who couldn't give me the number for customer services
  • To try and get a new PIN mailer we had to sign up for phone banking to speak to someone at customer services
  • First set of online details arrived, website wouldn't authenticate them and the call centre had no record of any online access registered to me (requested new credentials)
  • Second set of online details arrives, website wouldn't authenticate them but the man at the end of the phone spent ten minutes typing something and then it started working (no idea)
  • Halifax website - made me nostalgic for the 80s, basic but not in a user friendly way
  • No auto-magical account transfer process started, in fact no details of anything about it were sent (even after prompting, twice)

I'm the first to admit that none of the problems are insurmountable or even that serious but when that's the experience of the first ten days, you wonder what the next twelve years or so has in store for you teething problems or not.

I closed the account within the 14-day cooling off period and it felt a relief.  Ok, I was still with Lloyds but at least I knew their problems.

My view is that banks can rely on a lot of apathy from the consumer but if you can't get the initial experience right then you don't build confidence and you alienate your customer no matter how good your product is.

As for me, well, Lloyds TSB locked my account this week again so I'm off to try First Direct (at least the application was Firefox friendly....)

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