Village's Bank Switch Sends Message Schaumburg's Frustration Similar to Consumers'

By Kaplan, Allison | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), September 29, 1999 | Go to article overview

Village's Bank Switch Sends Message Schaumburg's Frustration Similar to Consumers'


Kaplan, Allison, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Allison Kaplan Daily Herald Staff Writer

Acting on dissatisfying customer service makes a statement when you're the village of Schaumburg, with $120 million in the bank.

But consumer advocates say individual customers also make a difference - even to an industry Goliath like Bank One.

The Schaumburg village board voted Tuesday to transfer its investments from Bank One in Chicago to Northern Trust in Schaumburg. Village officials were fed up, Schaumburg Assistant Finance Director Steve Shields said. Problems took weeks to resolve, nobody knew who to go to for help and account statements were arriving later each month.

"Any time we lose a customer we're unhappy," Bank One spokesman Tom Kelly said. "We have 1 million customers in Illinois; the vast majority are happy with the way they're being served."

When you are a national institution like Bank One with $256 billion in assets, even losing a sizable municipal account like Schaumburg's doesn't sting for long. So how can an individual possibly get the attention of a faceless corporation?

"Most people put up with bad service because it's what we've come to expect, but that's the wrong response," said Nancy Cowles, executive director of the Coalition for Consumer Rights. "Take your money somewhere else. If enough people are doing it, that sends a message."

The definition of customer service seems to be changing as much as the banking industry itself. It isn't only about smiling tellers and live people answering phones, Bank One's Kelly said.

"Our goal is to serve all of our customers well," Kelly said. "That includes having the biggest branch network, the most ATMs - for most of our 1 million customers in Chicago, that may be as far as customer service goes."

Consumer desires often are at odds these days, experts say. We want convenience: 24-hour banking, numerous ATMs, quick transactions over the Internet -until there's a problem. Then we want to speak to a competent service agent who can resolve the situation quickly.

Good customer service depends on your priorities, said Robert Schmermund of the Washington, D.C.-based trade group America's Community Bankers.

"We're in an era when all consumers know customer service is lacking greatly," he said. "It's important for customers to feel appreciated - when that's added on to other factors like a good product, a good price, good delivery."

But banking, more than other industries commonly criticized for poor customer relations - such as cable television and local phone service - is still a business where consumers crave personal contact, Cowles said. …

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