Some of you know that I spent most of my career in banking. The last 13 years of it were spent in mortgage banking, but the before that, for about 7 years I was management in retail banking. IE, a branch manager.
I managed different sized offices during that stint, some really small, some really big. All of them were busy, back in the days before electronic paychecks and even before ATM machines.
I remember lines out the door on General Motor’s weekly paydays. And cars constantly lined up in the drive-throughs on Friday evening when we stayed open late.
Working with the public can be stressful. I get that. But somewhere along the line customers got cut out of the service equation.
This week I realized my credit card was expiring at the end of May and I hadn’t received a replacement card. I’ve had this card since 1980. It says so right there on the plastic, and I’ve never had an issue like this.
So I figured I’d just call in and find out when I might expect the card. It wasn’t like I had any grand purchases planned, but it’s handy to have. I called the 800 number on the back of my card, the number for Customer Service.
After listening to several instructions to push 1 or say yes or no, I listened to a few advertisements for things they could do for me, none of which I was interested in. And interspersed between the ads, were suggestions about how much easier it could be if I’d just download the mobile app. Or perhaps I’d like to go to their website where surely I could solve all my problems.
All of this repeated for many long excruciating minutes, with ugly background noise disguised as music enhancing my enjoyment. They were experiencing a ‘high volume’ of calls and the wait time might be unusually long.
Huh. On a Tuesday night at 6:30 they were experiencing a high volume of calls? OK, I needed to go to band rehearsal, so after waiting for 15 minutes I decided to try again on another day.
Early Wednesday morning I called again. The same irritating music, the same ‘high volume of calls.’ I waited almost 20 minutes and hung up in disgust. It was obvious they were not interested in talking to me.
So I decided, what the heck, I’ll just drive to my local branch with my expired card and have them help me figure out what to do. Seemed so simple I don’t know why I didn’t think to do that from the start.
This afternoon I stopped by my branch.
There was nobody sitting at any of the customer service desks. The lights on that side of the building weren’t even on. There was a stock broker in a suit sitting in his office, but he wasn’t the appropriate person to fix my credit card issue.
Behind the teller line was one man, talking to a customer about a problem. It seemed quite complicated. At the far end of the teller line counter was another man running money through a counting machine. I couldn’t see it, but I’ve been around equipment like that enough to recognize the sound.
He never looked up.
I waited at the “enter here” sign for the employee to finish with the only other customer in the building. I waited a long time. And I noted he did not provide a solution to the customer’s problem.
Finally the man with the problem left and I approached the teller window. “You’ll need to go down there,” said the employee, nodding his head at the man on the end, still busy counting money. “I don’t have any money.” And he began to walk away.
“I don’t need money.” I said.
“Then what do you want?” he asked.
Yep, I’m feeling really weird about this whole place now. No customers, no staff, not even a teller working the drive-through, the curtains there are drawn, there’s no equipment on the counters, something seems off.
“Are you still a full service bank?” I asked.
“Why do you ask,” said the guy still counting money.
“Because there’s no one here.” I responded.
“We just had a bunch of people call in sick.” he replied.
Anyway, I told the employee about my expired credit card and he said he couldn’t do anything from the branch and gave me a phone number to call.
An 800 number.
Apparently it’s my responsibility to fix this problem. And I’m not going to get any help from my local branch. If they’re even a branch at all.
I know I’m not alone, but when did customer service stop being a thing? And why must we only deal with people far away in call centers which must be so understaffed that exceptionally high call volume is really the norm and not an exception at all.
Maybe I’m just an old baby boomer who likes to reminisce about the way things used to be. But you youngsters should have been around when customer service ruled. When you got to talk to people face to face. And when they did their best to solve a problem rather than pass it on.
Or back to the customer.
Yep, those were the days. You’d have been amazed.
Note: images are from a walk last month at my favorite park. I never got them into a post, so I figure even if you don’t want to read about banking, and who would, you might enjoy the birds.