Thursday, April 05, 2012

Another reminder that the private sector isn't always the answer

In my new capacity as Treasurer of the Suffolk County Co-ordinating Committee - the bit between the Regional Party and the Local Parties - I have been tasked with opening a bank account. It probably tells you all that you need to know that we've never had one before. In the past, expenses have been defrayed from the wallet of whoever is doing things at the time.

I had persuaded my colleagues that we should use one of the part-State owned ones, on the basis that anything that helps them improve their balance sheet is in all of our interests. And so, three weeks ago, I popped into a branch of Lloyds TSB in Ipswich to collect the appropriate paperwork. But in the new, hyperefficient technological world in which we live, you can't do that. It was explained to me that such things have been centralised and, if I left my details, somebody from the responsible team would call me within forty-eight hours.

I'm an impulse person when it comes to paperwork. When I'm in the mood, it is far better that I get a job done, because if it isn't done, I might not get back to it too soon. And so it turned out.

Today, having still not heard from them, I ventured back into the branch, where a young man with gelled hair, wearing a doubtless fashionable but shiny suit and patent leather shoes (equally shiny) and a badge which implied that he was the branch manager, heard my tale of resigned unhappiness and asked me to take a seat with a group of similarly less than entirely gruntled souls. I would have done that had there been a seat, so I stood until someone came to me and butchered my surname by way of an introduction.

I explained the problem again and was taken to the front desk with a piece of paper with a telephone number and a pen. "Ring these people on our phone and all will be well.", I was advised (I paraphrase a bit - call it artistic license). So, I rang them and was eventually put through to Rhona.

Rhona was very apologetic, explaining that yes, they were aware of my original visit to the branch, and that someone was going to get back to me. Apparently, the centralised team works on a diary basis, scheduling in calls to aspiring customers. And, all being well, someone would call me to arrange a subsequent call to sort things out.

Being a polite soul, I noted that I had initially been promised a call within forty-eight hours, to which Rhona responded by indicating that they were unable to meet such a deadline and had tried to tell local branches that. I did point out that this left customers 'hanging', rather poor customer service. But it clearly wasn't her fault.

One might infer from this tale of ineptitude that Lloyds TSB don't consider the winning of new business to be terribly important. That's bad enough, but when we, the British public own 41% of it, it is something that we should all be worried about.

And when a friend asks me for a recommendation for a reliable current account, I might think twice before I recommend them...


Jennie said...

I use smile, the internet branch of the Co-op. Much more ethical than Lloyds, and bollocks to whether the taxpayer owns it or not.

Also, their customer service is spot on (although the charges are a bit steep if you go over your overdraft)

Simon Mcgrath said...

Of course the difference is that you can always try another bank. In the public sector you have to put up with the service the state provides