01 February 2006

Do I really want to do this: The Banks

I need three financial letters, verifying account information:

I call ING customer service and immediately get a nice woman named Paula in Minnesota; my letter should be coming in 24-48 hours.

I call Fidelity. They give me the fax number of their verification department to send my information to.

I call Citibank. After spending six minutes trying to get through to an operator, I finally get a man named Sujin, who is in another country, probably India by the sound of his accent. Sujin has no idea what I'm talking about, and puts me on hold while he researches my request. He comes back three times to say, "it will take an additional minute or two; can I place you on hold for an additional minute or two?"

After 15 minutes, Sujin's research has led him to believe that Citibank can in fact send me this letter. But he puts me on hold again to research whether he can fax the form to me, as I requested. He comes back to tell me he can -- hallelujah! -- and it will cost me $12. The entire transaction lasted 22 minutes.

I am so switching banks when all this is over.

Let's recap, for those who haven't been keeping up with the global economy: Corporations save money by outsourcing their customer service, but other corporations are losing it because their employees have to wait on hold with inexperienced overseas customer service reps while they should be working. Even with years of experience, there is no way someone living in India can be expected to know what an American expects of an interaction like this. We may both be speaking English, but we're not speaking the same language.

Plus, for a lot of Americans, these customer service calls are the only dealings they have with non-Americans (and vice versa for those in other countries). What kind of impression must Sujin have of Americans after I got increasingly frustrated with him? It's not his fault my request wasn't in his training manual. But the bank has my money to do with pretty much whatever they like, in the five days it takes to clear a check. Why shouldn't I get excellent service for that?

We may be exporting jobs, but by frustrating their customers, American companies are hardly exporting a lot of goodwill, that's for sure. Is it any wonder people hate us? Good system.


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