I was recently told that writing letters of complaint was a sign of old age. Pah! I’ve been a keen whinger for years. Today it was the turn of my bank:

Posted: December 21, 2011 in complaints, economics

Dear Halifax
I’d like to write and tell you how much I’ve appreciated your service and care over the past eight or ten years I’ve been banking with you.
I’d like to, well, it’s good to have ambition but if I did so I’d be lying through my teeth.
In reality the service that you’ve provided me over the past near decade has gone from adequate to abysmal. Once upon a time, all those years I could go to my local branch. Then you started pushing all of your customers to take your paid-for accounts and people like me, who feel that the liquidity that our saving with you provides as well as the percentage that you accrue from our interest payments is probably enough considering the service you provide were sidelined and relegated.
This came to a head after I had waited in line only to be told that talking to some-one in branch was now reserved  for fee paying customers only and that in future I should use telephone or online banking. However, he did deal with my request at that time because of the length of time I had been queuing.
Your voice recognition software and interface have never been perfect but it was getting there. Until that is this summer when you started tinkering all over again and it’s now a nightmare once more. And spare a thought for your operators, the only time they get to speak to anyone is after having gone through the third circle of hell which is your 0845 number. Can you imagine if everyone you spoke to all day long was spitting with rage? Well, I suppose you can, you just have to tell them that you work in the banking industry.
Until recently I could call & pay my rent and bills as the money always goes to the same people. Thanks the latest changes I need their account details. Guess what, with these fancy new mobile phones I don’t need to be at home to do my banking so I don’t often tend to have such details at hand. Stupid me eh? Thinking I could give money to the same people in the same way that I have been for the last three years…
So, what is actually wrong with your telephone banking. Sorry if this is teaching your granny to suck eggs but from my experience it’s self evident that you’ve not put your latest incarnation through any testing (for example if the words “two” and “too” pose a risk of confusion and therefore frustration and anger, think of a different number…)
So, we have to think of a memorable number for the sake of security. So every-one uses their birthday or anniversary. Memorable numbers which are also secure and unknown to anybody else are pretty much mutually exclusive but whatever. I don’t know if I tried to put my digits in wrong one time but all of a sudden I started go through to an associate who would ask the most imponderable ‘security’ questions; such as:
“you went to the supermarket four days ago, how much did you spend?”
“I don’t know, about £10 or £20.”
“Sorry I can’t take an ‘or’ answer. How much did you spend?”
“Alright, split the difference, let’s say £15.”
“And you went to a cash machine last Friday, how much did you take out?”
“I have no idea, I went a few times and I was drunk on most of those occasions, I’d guess about £20 each time.”
“I’m sorry, you haven’t been able to answer your security questions adequately…”
Another time I rang I was able to remember greater detail of my financial activities and asked whether there couldn’t be a question I set which only I would know the answer to. It appears not. Because if some-one found out the answer then I wouldn’t be protected. Well here’s a thing, I won’t use anything as obvious as my birthday or my anniversary and I cross my heart and promise to never call you when there are muggers listening. There are other memorable questions with not so obvious answers; for example
“How are you?”
I could guess “fine” or “very well” but I, and I guess no telephone banking fraudsters, wouldn’t think of “slamming like a sh*thouse door” in a month of Sundays. As it stands anyone who has access to a diary, organiser, or a birthday card could access most people’s accounts. & I know you advise people not to use birthdays or anniversaries but get real! It’s either that or their debit card’s PIN.
And so I thought to myself it might be a better idea to try online banking instead. What a fool I am. Perhaps I’m just naive when it comes to the internet, not having had much experience of it, only having worked in online research and marketing on and of for the past 12 years, so what do I know? But here’s a thing. Having to give a name, a password AND a memorable phrase or whatever is not security, it’s stupid. The more barriers to entry (security) the more likely it is people are going to have to write down the details that they need to provide (stupidity). So, while your systems appear safe from your side, it’s bunk from ours.
The registration details I was given were in my full name, every time I register for anything online I use Dan, it’s only my mother that calls me Daniel when she’s cross with me. So that was wrong when I tried to log in the first time. Used my own password and the code that was text to me, blah blah blah, needless to say I cannot access my account online. Maybe I should phone in and go through that electronic version of Hades so I can get a new set of details every time I want to administer my account for myself.
Or maybe I should just take up someone else’s services.  I hear all the other highstreet banks have had lots of complaints. I can bet you don’t get many complaints since it’s impossible to email you a complaint unless you’re already logged in or you’re masochistic enough to instigate first contact with your phone system. A fantastic wheeze whereby you can tell the FSA in all faith that you hardly receive any complaints. My hat is off to your brilliant Machiavellian stratagem.
So, here’s how you can help me. When I phone in perhaps I could have an option to go straight into the queue for an operator. Waiting a couple of minutes is certainly better than the psychological torture of trying to deal with that cheery voiced kill-bot that would drive the Dalai Lama into conniptions of blood lust and try to imagineer a way of getting access to our accounts online which don’t result in your customers wishing your corporation was possessed of a single neck so they could cheerily strangle your entire operation in one fatal swoop.
But I doubt any of my complaints or suggestions will be heeded, I do expect a standard response which won’t even begin to cover anything I’ve raised herein, so I’m off. Toodles. It’s been unpleasant.

Update: They gave me £20 for the inconvenience I had experienced but expressed having no intention of changing their security process except for ongoing reviews & they definitely did NOT deliberately put up barriers to customer complaints.

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