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Show Me That You Care!

by David Brock on March 20th, 2015

The first version of this post was titled “Tell Me That You Care.”  It was a very wordy saga about a near tragic customer relationship/customer experience with Bank of America.

It had all the makings of a financial thriller:  A damsel in distress–my wife along with her personal and her company accounts.  A dashing hero– OK, maybe not so dashing.  There was fraud, criminal activity, police, suspected identity theft, financial malfeasance. certified documents being sent, missed commitments, dashed hopes.  Everything but the sex–well, at least that’s not a part of this story.

Like many of these stories, an unexpected plot twist at the end.  The reader of these stories thinks that truth, justice, fair play wins at the end.  That people working together can solve a problem, and live happily ever after.

The problem was solved, we are living happily ever after, my wife’s accounts have now been moved out of Bank of America and rest safely with a competitor.

As I was about to publish this saga, I realized the title was all wrong.  As I said, it was titled “Tell Me That You Care.”  That was my mistake, I trusted what they said, not realizing it wasn’t what they did.  Everyone we dealt with at Bank Of America, said, “we care,” at least for a period of time, when it was clear they didn’t.

Well, that’s not quite true.  The branch manager didn’t seem to care until he saw the size of the accounts.  Not huge, nothing to break the bank–so to speak, but larger than a lot of their other customers.  Enough to have a private banking relationship and our own personal banker.

The credit card people and fraud people kept saying they cared, but they kept forgetting that we had filed a report, kept asking us to file, kept switching us from one department to another department, with 30-40 minute hold times.  Four weeks after reporting the fraud, we finally got some forms to fill out.

The suspected identity theft?  Well the timing of the transactions, the way things were done required–at least we feared–access to a lot of personal information.  When expressing that concern, I was told, “But you don’t understand, we’re Bank Of America, that could never possibly happen…..”  But when I showed the paper trail my sleuthing had uncovered, the response was, “This is very unusual, let us get back to you in a few days.”

A few days stretched into a couple of weeks, and now about 5 weeks.  The branch manager remembers the issue, doesn’t remember the commitment to follow up, even though documented in a letter.  He says it’s the fraud department’s responsibility.

The fraud department says, it is clearly not our fault, it was something we never knew about, and we have no liability.  But they can’t/won’t share any other information.

We think, though are not sure, there wasn’t an actual identity theft problem, but we remain alert, with reports into the credit reporting agencies.

During the process, not satisfied with the local response, I try the branch manager’s boss.  His assistant expressed what seemed to be genuine concern and said he would call back shortly.  Half a dozen unreturned follow up messages later, we still haven’t heard.

At one point, I suspected, maybe we were going about this wrong.  These weren’t millions of dollars we were talking about.  The fraud itself was less than $800.  I know companies like Bank Of America prefer to had individbank of america 02uals and small companies deal with electronic channels.

I tried navigating the phone systems, pressing 2, 3, 6, or 7 whenever appropriate, holding patiently, never getting the right people.

I tried the web site, perhaps an online chat, perhaps an email……. All to no avail.  I spent a couple of hours combing the site, but couldn’t find anything the way to accomplish that.  It may be there, it may be my user error, I’m generally good at finding these, regardless how difficult they make it.

I guess dealing with individuals is just to sloppy and time consuming.

The branch manager has washed his hands, saying, “You have to be patient.  We are researching, it’s in the hands of the fraud department.  We take your issues very seriously, We Care.”

I finally ended up at the web site again.  I stumble on a page, What We Stand For, with an open letter from the CEO, Brian Moynihan.

That page and other linked pages clearly outline the commitment to the customer, the value system and all sorts of stuff intended to communicate, “We Care.”  Whether you are an individual or a large company, or an institutional investor, Bank Of America cares about their customers.

Then I reflected, everyone constantly was saying they cared, but no one was demonstrating it.  No one was showing me that they cared.

I was reminded that customer experience has nothing to do with what you say, the words used in brochures, by employees, or even by the CEO.

Customer experience is about the experience itself.  It’s about what you do, how you demonstrate that you care–or in this case don’t.

Now, I suspect there will be another ironic plot twist.  Since this blog is fairly widely read and it is syndicated in a number of sites that draw far more readers, it will probably get reasonable visibility.

I suspect the Bank Of America social media trolls will find this and raise the alarm, “We’re getting bad press on social media!”

I know EVP’s, SVP’s and others will come out of the woodwork, reaching out, saying “We Care.”

I’m sure they will express lots of heartfelt apologies and want to fix things.  They may blame the branch manager–who did handle this poorly, but was just doing what he had been trained to do.  He’s creating the Bank Of America customer experience he’s been trained to create.

It’s ironic, social media works!  But it’s the wrong solution. Creating great customer experience should be part of the way you work and engage customers every day.  Customers shouldn’t be forced to go to extraordinary measures to get the service you claim to deliver.

But since great customer experience ends up being lip service for too many, too many are forced to air their problems–as warnings to others—on social media.  Great customer experience isn’t about managing social media reputations.

No matter how much they might express, “We Care,” they never demonstrated it when it counted.  The bottom line, is my wife and I no longer care.  We hope another institution cares. We will see.

  1. Martin Schmalenbach permalink

    Nicely articulated Dave!

    What a company does, and does not do or say, is a clear reflection of what they are really about – or at the very least reflects the lack of clarity people from the top down have, about the true purpose of their organization – in Simon Sinek’s terms, their “Why” – and they focus on their “What” with this lack of clarity, which, by the way, also comes across as a lack of passion, empathy etc.

  2. Charlie Green permalink

    Brilliant, David! I hope other companies, not just BofA, recognize themselves in this dire tale.

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