Magazine article Independent Banker

Waiting on Hold

Magazine article Independent Banker

Waiting on Hold

Article excerpt

Editor's Note: Technology can transform our lives. It can boost our productivity, relieve us from drudgery and even create exciting new possibilities limited only by our imaginations. In fact, the computer revolution is redefining the very nature of banking today. Nevertheless, technology won't change basic truths about people and business. This column by Kevin B. Tynan reminds us of the opportunities available to community banks that haven't forgotten what genuine customer service means.

Have the CEOs of Chicago's largest banks ever picked up the phone and called their own institution? Perhaps they are too busy contemplating billiondollar deals to experience what the person on the street goes through when trying to talk to a banker.

So this little missive is to let them know what they'd discover if their phones weren't hot-wired to every key executive in their company.

I've always linked big banks with impersonal service, but I work with small banks for a living. Maybe I'm prejudiced. I decided to do some research to quantify their level of customer service. Focusing on telephone courtesy seemed like a handy barometer.

My associate and I conducted a not particularly scientific survey. We called each of Chicago's 12 largest banks three times and asked: How much total interest would I pay if I took a mortgage at today's rates? The results were startling, even to a cynic like me.

Of 36 calls made, we got answers less than half the time-answers that weren't always correct. In fact, one bank calculated three different answers to the same question.

Our calls were transferred an average of 4.2 times, and we waited 5 minutes, 29 seconds before reaching the right extension.

Voice mail was the kiss of death. Of 18 messages left, only three were returned.

The numbers are bad enough, but the experience was worse. How do you quantify the frustration that builds up when operators channel callers to the wrong extension before they can even finish the question they are asking? …

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