My mother died last week at the ripe age of 91. At the end it was a blessing that she passed from this life very peacefully with nothing more troubling than a failure to get comfortable in her bed.
I am setting about the procedure known as probate so I need to open a bank account in the name of my late mother's estate. Well, my husband and I have a joint account with NatWest in the nearby town so it seemed the obvious thing to me that I would ring the branch, fix an appointment and then open the account.
Ah, but how to call the branch? Ring the only number available an 0345 one. Straight through to the automatic voice who wanted to know my account number. Now, given that I wanted to open a new account and not talk about the existing one I resisted the voice's repeated demands to input my account number. Instead I hung on and yes, I was rewarded by a message to say I would be put through to a real person. After a small wait the call was answered by a gentleman whose first words were so garbled as to be almost incomprehensible. I told him I wanted to fix an appointment with my local branch. He responded by asking for my account number. I repeated that I wanted to talk to my local branch. He lied to me that they didn't have a direct line. Come on guy, who are you trying to fool? I refused point blank to give him my account number because I didn't have it with me. He took my name and started to look up my account number. I repeated that I just wanted to be put through to the local branch for which I'd repeatedly given him the name. He refused. I told him I was wasting my time and rang off.
OK, maybe I was being awkward but hey, who's the customer here? Who is the bank supposed to serve? And to be honest it was only my bloodymindedness that made my hang on repeatedly while being told to put in my account number that got me to speak to a real person.
NatWest - and I do hope you're reading this - if you want customers, you have to make it easy and you have to get yourselves into the mindset of your customers. Which means the first message on your 0345 facility should be "If you are phoning to open a new account press ......" And for existing customers, if they want to talk to their local branch, you should let them. Local banking? - my foot!