A message to my ex (bank)

Dear Standard Bank

I have been one of your customers for nearly 10 years, making use of a Blue Bean credit card account.

Today, I got an sms telling me that I was in arrears on the account, and should contact you to make payment parrangements. I was amazed because the card was paid up to date the last time I looked. I phoned, and discovered you had charged me a hefty service fee, pushed my account into the red, and then opted to treat me like some kind of bad debtor. No apology was offered when I phoned up.

I cannot say my time with Standard has been happy. Your organisation is slow and bureaucratic. Many of your staff are keen to help, but your systems are so unwieldy that very often they cannot.

If your organisation was truly “inspired” and “involved”, you would have customer management systems that involved your staff taking responsibility, rather than treating us as smelly problems that need to be pushed away down the production line.

At present, a typical customer service scenario is this: you have a problem, you phone up, you wait for ages, you speak to one person, then to another, then to another; finally they say they’ll have to get back to you. But they don’t get back to you, you have to phone again, wait again, talk to another three people … etc. The customer has to do all the work – and then you have the impudence to charge us for “service”.

Did you start creating call centres because you seriously wanted to offer better service, and had thought carefully about how to do it — or just because it was fashionable? Were you leading, or trudging stupidly (sorry, tough word I know) behind the competition (who, it turns out, were mostly trudging stupidly themselves)?

Get inspired, Standard Bank, make it work like this: You phone up. You get through fairly quickly. There’s an immediate option to speak to a human. You speak to someone who says: “I understood your problem. I can’t help you immediately, but I take responsibility for sorting this out, and will speak to all the relevant people. I will phone back before the end of the day. Here are my contact details.” And they actually do call back.

Wouldn’t that be lovely? You’d make life easier both for your customers, and your poor staff, who constantly get it in the neck because you don’t give them enough clout to properly help people, and because their functions are currently so pigeon-holed they don’t have the organisational knowledge to do a better job anyway.

Besides making more organisational sense, it’s just plain good manners, courtesy. Even I remember that stuff, and I’m young.

My ideal service scenario is almost a fantasy, I know. I feel the light breeze of fairy wings fluttering on my cheeks as I write. But there are actually companies in South Africa that work to offer this level of service. And I prefer to do business with them.

You could pay some consultant R1 million and you wouldn’t get advice better than this. But I’m giving it to you free. So you’ll ignore it.

I have closed my account.


your ex-customer,

David Le Page

[This email was sent directly to Standard Bank customer service. They acknowledged receipt and said they would get back to me. They never did.]

About David

I am an environmental writer, journalist and speaker living in Cape Town, South Africa.
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