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September 30th, 2006


Oh dear.  I really think they should change their slogan from ‘another way’ because at the moment another way is to change your bank!

I was in a local branch the other day and in the queue for customer service got talking to the two people behind me. They were both complaining about things going wrong with their standing orders which the bank had not managed to get right.

We were actually having a laugh at the bank’s expense although when you are dealing with people’s money it’s no laughing matter.

I have already complained to our local branch in writing over something I wasn’t happy with and said to these people that they should do the same.  The trouble is the bank at higher levels are not aware of customer disatisfaction.

We discussed that the basic problem with the bank is the dilution of information regarding how to operate a branch is down to having ‘faceless’ call centres.

I actually used to work for this company many years ago and when the branches retained the services that they deemed appropriate to ‘put out’ to call centres, customer service was much better. 

The trouble is instead of having worked through all the positions we did at branch level (to gain how it all fit together), many of the employees have probably never seen a customer face to face and don’t understand.

Also, the customer service people within the branch don’t know enough to help people properly. Here are some of the key issues:

*  Lack of knowledge with staff means you queue for longer while they keep having to go out the back to sort your problems out.

*  Our request was simply to add a signatory onto our account.  I knew exactly the right name of the form we needed, yet it took us having to wait a good few minutes while the chap helping us had to go ‘out the back’ to sort this out.  Years ago there would have been a selection of these forms to hand at the help desk so you didn’t have to make the customer wait.

*  With the onset of direct banking, the two parts don’t seem to be working together well.  To change our signatory status was going to take about 10 days to alter from when the forms went to direct banking.  Why?  Years ago it would be dealt with within a day or two.

*  The layout of branches now means no privacy.  The counters are lower with microphones so people behind you can hear everything going on.

*  When talking to the customer service people in the foyer area, you are giving out private information within listening distance of everyone!

*  NatWest has an advertising campaign saying you can talk directly to branches.  Only if they pick up within 5 rings of you calling.  You then get put through to ‘customer support’ at the call centre.  On an occasion that I needed to speak to the branch, I was told try ringing again and if they don’t pick up within 5 rings, try again!

*  We have taken postal orders within our business.  These have been a pain to pay in, but we were given a book to use to prepare the paperwork ahead of time.  These changed recently and look like cheques now, much simpler.  When I tried to find out  if I had to pay these in as cheques now I could not get an answer from anyone.  They didn’t know. 

Mind you nor did the Post Office when I called them.  In the end I paid them in how I thought they should and just hoped when I got to the bank it would be okay.  Thankfully it was, but why had I got more know-how than the bank?

I don’t blame the people in the branches.  Nor to some degree the people in the call centres.  At the end of the day they are at the beck and call of the management.  It is down to bad training of staff, no cohesion between the services they offer and a complete lack of understanding of customer care in it’s total form.

There are some lovely people working in NatWest and if I’m honest I feel really sorry for them especially knowing that some of the problems going wrong are caused by people they don’t actually work with and then they have to take the flack.

But it comes to something when even one of my friends who still works for NatWest can’t bear going into the branch because of the ineffeciency!


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