Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Chase Bank Does It All Wrong

I could easily fill several blogs with personal tales of poor customer experiences, but don’t generally feel it adds any value. Today I’ll make an exception, only because the story illustrates how incredibly inept even a presumably sophisticated organization can be. Plus I’m really annoyed.

So, I walk into my local Chase Bank branch (yes, we’re naming names here) around 11:30 a.m. to make a quick deposit when there won’t be a line. Not a customer in sight. But I’m intercepted by an unfamiliar young woman at the service desk who offers to “help” me and then tells—not asks, but tells—me to go sit and talk to “Lou” the personal banker while she handles my transaction. She promises this won’t add any time, but of course it’s already taken longer than it would to just do the deposit.

Now I have to walk across the branch and wait while she pulls aside a rope barrier (no idea why that’s there) to introduce me to Lou. Since I’m obviously annoyed, she assures me they’re “doing this with everyone,” presumably to let me know I’m not being singled out as a problem, but also (a) ending any illusion I might retain that they recognize me as an important customer and (b) confirming they are doing this without any thought.

Lou also orders me to sit down and proceeds to verify my mailing address (which of course is correct since I’m receiving my statements) and my phone number (which is also correct since they called me two weeks ago to “schedule an appointment” with a personal banker on Tuesday or Thursday, since those were the days that worked for him). Lou then mentions some offer paying me a bounty on new accounts.

At this point I ask Lou if he realizes just how poorly this is being done. Obviously they have correct addresses: yes, he says, but they do get many corrected telephone numbers. He apologizes if it was “a poor customer experience, ” the young woman reappears with my deposit receipt, and that’s that.

Ok, so what did they do so poorly? First and foremost, they interrupted me when I was intent on making a simple transaction. The one thing I know for sure about banking (courtesy of Paco Underhill’s Why We Buy) is that people go into a branch to get something done and don’t want to hear about anything else until that’s taken care of. Pardon the cliche, but getting between me and that open teller really was like getting between a mother bear and her cub.

Second, they took a short transaction and made it longer.

Third, they did this without asking whether I had the time.

Fourth, they told me to sit down. There’s a whole power / authority thing going on here. (I remained standing the whole time.)

Fifth, they asked me really stupid questions—address and phone. They already have both and know or should know they’re correct.

Sixth, it was obviously all about them. I know they’re never going to use my phone number for anything helpful because the last time there was a problem with my account, they sent me a notice by mail. In my seven years as a customer, I can’t remember a phone call from them about anything except marketing.

Seventh, they missed their chance. I actually do need some new services, which would be obvious from a casual glance at my accounts. (Lou was a middle aged guy, probably an experienced banker, who could almost certainly recognize this if he tried. Instead he verified my address.) Ironically, if Lou had simply asked "Is there anything we can do for you?", he might have gotten some business out of me, despite all the other mistakes.

On reflection, I realize the entire transaction was the exact equivalent of a telemarketing call: an interruption of my business done obviously, purely and thoughtlessly for someone else’s purposes. Except of course, it was worse: with a telemarketer you can hang up, while here I had no choice but to participate. No wonder I was unhappy.

The pity, of course, is this was part of a “customer relationship” program. Somebody went out of their way to set up this experience that did nothing but annoy me. No doubt I’m more sensitive than most, but the flaws here are still fundamental and obvious. These are the sorts of mistakes you might expect from an amateur—but from an institution the size and sophistication of JP Morgan Chase, they’re inexcusable.


David Gerbino said...


thank you for your candor in your last branch visit. Banker's take note!

I brought your post to a training session yesterday I was involved with at my bank around customer experience. They closed the session reading your post and there were people who could not believe this actually happened. BTW, the former Chase employees in the room had a good laugh.

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