Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Are Barclays Bank the UK's most exasperating company?

I have just spent an hour wasting my time on the telephone to Barclays and I either need to hit someone or write my experiences down! This is not strictly in the vein of business advice but many businesses could considerably improve themselves if they mystery shopped their own enterprise. This is a brief outline of my experience because if I filled in all the detail, it would be several pages long.

If ever there was a lesson to be learned about how not to give good customer service, Barclays would be my nominated company. Fortunately, I do not have an account with them but I do have third part access to one of my relatives "Premiere" accounts for which I have power of attorney.  One can only imagine how badly non-Premiere customers are treated.

My relative had sold a Spanish property and I wanted to set up a Euro account to deposit the proceeds. "You can't do that online", I was told. "You will need to visit a branch". I later discovered that this is a stock, pre-programmed phrase that the robots in their call centres use all the time. Anyway, I went to a branch and they couldn't help me because I needed to go to a bigger branch apparently. So off I went to a bigger branch which initially appeared to be full of school children but were actually Barclays advisors and eventually got to speak to the international desk. They gave me an application form to fill in, after much running backwards and forwards to a supervisor to find out what they had to do. I was told to post it back to the International Division. Why I couldn’t have downloaded this from their web site is anyone’s guess but that would involve joined up thinking wouldn’t it?

Miraculously, after posting the form I received a letter telling me the account was set up. The reason for my anger? I have just tried to check the balance and guess what? "I am unable to verify you" is the new stock answer. "What do I need to be verified?" I asked. Can you guess the response? "You will need to visit a branch". Just how many times do I have to visit a branch before the idiots that work at Barclays actually get it right? They have my address details, the original of the enduring power of attorney, a copy of my passport and my inside leg measurement etc. What else could they need?

It gets even worse and you will now need to concentrate! Digging further and after being transferred around the world twice, it turns out that they don't have the right questions to ask me to carry out the verification, so saying that I would stay on the line whilst they found out what questions they needed to ask me fell on deaf ears. I even suggested that if they couldn’t dream up what questions to ask me that they might  ring the branch they wanted me to visit and ask them what questions they should be asking me. Hopefully you are still with me on this because if it doesn’t make any sense, you have the correct interpretation!  As expected, no luck with that approach either. According to them, it was my fault that they didn’t have the right questions to ask me and that’s why I needed to visit a branch, presumably as punishment. They even tried my telephone banking password but the password was invalid after two months of non-use which they omitted to tell me. I expect I need to visit a branch to get a new one of those too.

So my final conclusion is that I will move all the accounts to Lloyds where I get sensible answers, the staff have wrinkles instead of acne and it will actually be easier than trying to find the balance on the Euro account. Apparently, Lloyds just need to see my power of attorney and they can move all the accounts from Barclays. I wish them luck.

In summary, I would love to see a director of Barclays try and set up a third party access account and then operate it because presumably they sit in their plush offices, counting their bonuses, blissfully unaware of their incompetent staff and the frustration they are creating for clients. A lesson for any business I think!