Dial One if You Have Your Credit Card Handy

Dial one if you have your credit card handy and would like to speak to an intelligent person, in your own country, who can really help you!

I've recently have had some incredibly bad experiences when I have tried to phone some very well-known banks in the UK.

On the first occasion, I was trying to make an inquiry about my father's bank account. My father is no longer able to look after his own affairs and I have power of attorney which has been registered with his bank.

I dialled the telephone number shown on the statement and my call was answered by a very friendly lady called Anna.

I asked Anna for some information about my father's accounts. But I was told that I did not have the required authority to be able to access this information. I knew that this was wrong but Anna was convinced.

Anna suggested that I would have to visit the branch where my father's account is held and see one of their representatives.

I explained to Anna that my father's account is held at Dorking and I live in Stevenage.

Anna was insistent. "If you can just pop into the Dorking branch and see one of the assistants, they will be able to help you."

I asked Anna where she was based. And she explained that she was working at a call centre in India. Little wonder then that she did not appreciate that for me to travel to my father's branch is a journey of about 75 miles and would take approximately 2 hours each way!

My second experience came when I needed to speak to somebody at the Stevenage branch of another bank.

I had not telephoned this branch before and went to directory inquiries to get a phone number.

It soon became clear that the phone number I had been given was for a call centre in the North of England.

Although my call could have been handled quite easily over the telephone, the operator was not able to help. And once again suggested that I pop into the branch. She explained that one of the personal bankers at the branch would be able to help me.

I asked her if she could put me through to the personal banker by telephone. "No," she said. "I can't do that. Our personal bankers are not allowed to take telephone calls."

What an incredible situation!

What is the point of having local branches if we cannot make a telephone call to those branches?

How can it be that the banks expect us to make visits to these branches but not to make telephone calls?

Is there something wrong with my thinking? Or have the banks got this wrong?

After discussing this with some of my colleagues we came to the conclusion that we would like to have an additional choice when we phone the banks.

We would like to hear, "Please press one if you have your credit card handy and are prepared to pay a small charge to speak to somebody at your local branch."

And incidentally, I was helping some people just this week with their telephone communication skills. One of the ladies on the course is Indian. And I asked to how she felt about phoning a UK business that her call being received by a call centre in India.

"I just hate it!" She said. "Especially when they give a false name and try to pretend that they are based in the UK."

Now isn't that interesting.

Derek Williams is creator of The WOW! Awards™ and Chief Executive for the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals in Europe.

For more information about Derek Williams visit http://www.MrWow.co.uk. For The WOW! Awards (including access to a FREE customer service newsletter) visit http://www.TheWowAwards.com

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