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Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Senior Moment

A few years back, an elderly lady wrote the following letter to her bank. The bank manager thought it amusing enough to have it published in The London Times. I am sharing it with you now in hopes it brings a smile to your face... and should you be in business, the inspiration to review your automated telephone response system.

Dear Sir,

I am writing to thank you for bouncing my cheque with which I endeavoured to pay my plumber last month. By my calculations, three 'nanoseconds' must have elapsed between his presenting the cheque and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honour it. I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my Pension, an arrangement which, I admit, has been in place for only thirty eight years. You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account £30 by way of penalty for the inconvenience caused to your bank.

My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to rethink my errant financial ways.

I noticed that whereas I personally attend to your telephone calls and letters, when I try to contact you, I am confronted by the impersonal, overcharging, re-recorded, faceless entity which your bank has become. From now on, I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person. My mortgage and loan payments will therefore and hereafter no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank by cheque, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee at your bank whom you must nominate.

Be aware that it is an offence under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope.

Please find attached an Application Contact Status which I require your chosen employee to complete. I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative. Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Solicitor, and the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof.

In due course, I will issue your employee with a PIN number which he/she must quote in dealings with me. I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modelled it on the number of button presses required of me to access my account balance on your phone bank service.

As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Let me level the playing field even further. When you call me, press buttons as follows:

1- To make an appointment to see me.

2- To query a missing payment.

3- To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there.

4- To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping.

5- To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature.

6- To transfer the call to my mobile phone if I am not at home.

7- To leave a message on my computer (a password to access my computer is required. A password will be communicated to you at a later date to the Authorised Contact.)

8- To return to the main menu and to listen to options 1 through 8

9- To make a general complaint or inquiry, the contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service. While this may, on occasion, involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration of the call.

Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrangement. May I wish you a happy, if ever so slightly less prosperous, New Year.

Your Humble Client

It is important to remember that this letter was actually written by a 98 year old woman.

And may I wish you a happy, and not so slightly more prosperous, New Year.

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  1. Priceless, Jim, whether a real letter or not, it's an absolute gem, and it is right on the money.

    Sadly, it reminds me of the way in which a certain bank of our mutual acquaintance, now operates, and with whom I had occasion to go through their SHIT - System Having Interactive Tele-responses. The option I took was #3 CRAP - Customer Relations Awaits Problems. I've given you my loose translations into English of the local versions of their systems, as the original was in Hindi and Tagalog! The two call centre locations with whom I played the handset button game were in Mumbai and Manila - my account is in Kuala Lumpur.

    OK, PTMO (Piss Taking Mode Off)... I really did have an annoying session with the call centres last week. To cut a long story short, the bank has just implemented a new process whereby for every single custoner transaction done online, using a credit card, initiates an SMS stating that the transaction has occured and we are required to call the number on the back of our credit card.

    A sensible security procedure one might think. Yes, true, but this even includes:

    * regular periodic payments (that are therefore NOT "unusual activity" - the purpose of the new process, I was told was to query items of unusual activity.)

    * Any amount from $1 upwards

    * No provision for response by SMS

    * Automatic rejection if we (the customer) fails to respond

    * A process to opt out is included - but they forgot to advise the customer that this was possible. Actually, until I got the first SMS, I can say they forgot to tell us, the customer, that they were implementing this process.

    * The opt out process (that we didn't know about) requires us to call them to actually opt-out. I doubt they'll get too many calls.

    Yes Jim, this is from the bank who employed us for many years, albeit you in Canada and me in HK and Malaysia. The bank that used to have first class customer service, and prided itself that this service was admired by many of our competitors.

    Well, as I now see from a Linked-In group covering our old bank, a group that you and I are members of, the days of top class service, backed by switched-on, customer oriented staff and managers, supported by state-of-the-art IT, HR, Training, innovation and strong team-working, are long gone.


    Cheers, and all the best for 2012


  2. Hi Jim

    Thank you for this blog… my wish is I’m as lively at 98.

    All the best for 2012


  3. Thanks Barb

    ... and my wish is I was as lively now.


  4. Great article, thanks for sharing!

  5. Outstanding! So enjoyed reading your blog article Jim!

    Happy New Year and my best wishes to you and your loved ones!


  6. Jim-got it. I don't remeber reading that one. Midland?

    HNY to you all-Ray and Julie

  7. "Love it Jim...thanks for sharing! Happy New Year to you & Shana."

  8. I enjoy keeping up with your writings. Don't forget to keep a seat for me on your BoD.

  9. Your post was really funny, I really like how she wrote her letter of complaint.

    I hope you had a wonderful Xmas holidays and you enjoy the new year.

    Happy new year and all the best for you and your family.