While not exactly Ned Kelly, I have always welcomed a certain level of anonymity with my bank, provided the service was solid. I wasn't looking for a friend; I was looking for a mutually satisfying business relationship. I welcomed ATMs and online banking because they made my life easier.
But about five years ago circumstances dictated that what had been impersonal became personal: my husband and I were assigned a "personal banker". (Ah, do I sniff the nascent stage of CRM? It may not be love that's in the air, but a relationship it most certainly is.)
Still, as nice as the relationship was, like so many relationships before, it sputtered and died. After a short frenzied period of activity with, well, I forget his name, we never heard from our PB again.
Then a year ago, circumstances set in motion the reprise of our personal banker. Now in those intervening years, copious amounts of ink have been dedicated to banks devoting megabucks to technology-based CRM initiatives. Yes, we are led to believe we are in the age of the totally customer-centric financial institution.
Well, not really.
First off, we discovered that even though we thought our first PB had consolidated our various accounts (you know, that "single view" of the customer thing). Well, our new PB, Adam indeed had no single view of us, so we began to catalogue our accounts again. I said I'd e-mail the details. "Sorry," Adam said, "I don't have an e-mail account."
(No e-mail account?)
As to the human interaction bit. Well, Adam was a really nice guy, but he was having a few work and life issues. He wasn't all that happy with his manager. He lamented his various moves to different branches. He was thinking about making a career change . . .
(No one warned me that this personal banker thing was going to be this personal. I didn't realize customer relationship management was a two-way street.)
Well, as you may have guessed, Adam moved on. Nobody at the bank told us. And apparently nobody told our "new" PB about us, either.
My husband rang the bank a couple of weeks ago, and a somewhat befuddled operator connected him with Anthony, our new PB, who started our relationship by informing us of Adam's bolt. Anthony apologized for not getting in touch, but had to admit that he had no idea who we were. He couldn't find our names in the computer, so he asked for our account numbers. My husband went online and read the numbers to him. Anthony couldn't find them in his computer. My husband pointed out he was looking at them online. Anthony said not to worry, his system often couldn't find accounts.
An hour later, he called to say he had looked through some boxes that Adam had left and, yes indeed, he had found our file in a box Adam had left. (A "box" of files?)
Yesterday, we received a letter from Anthony telling us how much he looked forward to assisting us and to please let him know if there was anything he could do regarding our finances. Of course, we'll have to let him know on his mobile, because Anthony doesn't have an e-mail address and his business card has only a mobile phone number on it.
The editor in me can't believe a bank with a bazillion dollar IT budget ends up with this interface to its customers. And the customer in me just wishes we could get back to the days when I was merely a number and not a relationship. And no offence, Anthony, but if you do insist on a relationship, could we make it a one-way street this time?