Prepare a 2000 word essay reflective essay in which you outline a situation involving you as a customer being unhappy with the treatment you received. What are the possible reasons you were unhappy, what could have been done by the organisation to overcome this and, most importantly, what might be the reasons that the organisation did not try any of your suggestions to overcome the problem?
This essay discusses my customer service experience in Lloyds TSB branch when I went in to open a sole trading account for a business I started a few months back. According to the requirements of the essay, I would outline the reasons why I was unhappy with the service, likely steps I believe the organisation should have taken to rectify my unease, and possible reasons why they did not attempt any of the suggestions I made to overcome this problem.
I set up a trading business a couple of months ago, and its major operation was to import certain food products from Asia into the UK. I purchased these products by transferring funds to partners abroad, they sent the products, it cleared through customers, and I sold them to wholesalers here in the UK. The turnover was not that high as the products were not that much, so I did not feel like I had to register a company or go through extensive protocols. I knew I wanted a separate bank account that managed just these funds, as opposed to dealing exclusively from my personal account, so I approached Lloyds TSB to open a sole trader bank account.
On arriving at the bank, I queued for a couple of minutes, and when I informed the customer service officer my intentions, they called in a senior personal banking manager to assist me. She sat me down and I explained my business situation and what I required from the bank. I was already a customer with a personal account in the bank, so they went through my personal current account, saw the huge transaction volumes in the account, and decided that it would be best if I opened a sole trader account, which was the reason I visited the bank in the first place.
I felt that being an existing customer, it would be easy for me to open a sole trader account and manage it the same way I managed my current account. Choosing Lloyds TSB was an easy option since I did not have any problems whatsoever with my existing current account, so it only made logical sense for me to approach them for a sole trader account. For the next hour, the banking manager and me went through all the details of my business. She told me about the 18 month interest and charge free period, had me write detailed descriptions of what I do, how I do it, how much I charge, and how I get paid. I also had to provide some proof of address, identify and business location.
The personal banking manager herself was Asian, and when I explained what I did in detail, she was equally enthusiastic about it and wanted to learn more. I felt her customer service was really good as I did not feel time going by, and was happy to sit there until the bank account was opened. After going through all details, they ran a credit check and opened my account. I was provided with an account opening confirmation, my account number, sort code, and even a welcome pack. On getting home, I informed some of my customers that I had opened a new account and they could start paying in. A week later, I had collected a number of payments into the account and was already trading actively on that account.
Two weeks later, I got a call from the personal banking manager’s colleague that they were going to close my account. He gave no explanation, just that they did not open accounts for my kind of business. I asked for more information on that and he could not provide anything, only that the lady who opened my bank account was away on holiday and I was free to call back in a week or two when she got back so I could talk to her. I asked him for the number of the switchboard for business banking where I could speak to someone higher up who could explain the situation to me. I asked for this number because the caller could not explain the situation to me, and wanted me to wait a week or two to learn about why they wanted to close my account, especially when I had already started trading actively.
I got the number for the switchboard and called. The representative who spoke with me transferred me to someone else, who then said it was probably a mistake and they were going to call me in a day to rectify or explain the situation to me. I waited by the phone but no one called. Then 2 weeks later, I got a letter in the mail that read they were closing my account by a specified date and were going to write me a cheque for the balance at that point in time. I was confused because I did not understand why they would tell me over the phone that they were going to rectify the situation, then send me a letter afterwards that they were going to close my account. Furthermore, they did not offer any information on why exactly they chose to close the account. None whatsoever.
I called the next day and spoke to another representative, who then transferred me to a relationship manager. The relationship manager informed me that they were indeed closing the account, and when I asked why, they said the bank was not obligated in anyway to explain why they choose to close certain accounts. I was then referred back to the personal banking manager who opened the account for me, and when I asked why the personal banking manager could not inform me of whether or not the account would have been opened or closed, I was told that she did not really deal in business accounts, just personal accounts for high net worth individuals.
I was unhappy because I was serviced by someone who was not experienced enough to offer me the services I required, and who did not provide me with all relevant information regarding the account I was opening. Secondly, I was made to believe the account was opened and I could trade freely in the account, only to find out weeks later that it was to be closed. Thirdly, the communication process during the account opening and closing were premature, I had to call several times to speak with different people, and was sent a letter informing me of the account closure, not even a phone call. Lastly, nobody explained why the account had to be closed; they just stated that they did not have to provide any such information due to bank policies.
Lloyds TSB Business Banking could have done a number of different things to avoid my displeasure. Firstly, they should have made sure that customers who intend to open business accounts, should be serviced by business account representatives who know everything about the product the bank offers, and can also offer relevant advice on the procedures. I was told that the business account representative only comes around once a week on Wednesdays. If I was serviced by a business account representative, I would have been made aware of conditions under which I could or could not open an account, and in the event whereby my business did not quality, I would not been told there and then, and not have had to inform all my customers of my business account.
Secondly, if I was informed immediately about the state of my account, without having to have it opened, then I would not have had to give all my customers a new account number they could be paying funds into. Now that I have, I would need to call each one of them again to give them a new account, and that is stressful but for me and for the customers. It also shows lack of professionalism on my part.
Lastly, the bank should have communicated with me more clearly and directly. For instance, if the bank account had already been opened, then they should have called me in a few days and told me that the account had to be closed because of a number of issues, and explained to me why it had to be so. Irrespective of bank policies, knowing why my bank account had been closed would have helped me if I were to open a new account elsewhere, if it was my mistake. By communicating more explicitly and directly, I would not have felt so bad, and I would have understood the situation and interpreted it as an error from the bank or from me, and not just a customer service fail by the organisation.
The likely reasons that the bank could not have followed my recommendations are due to the following. Due to the number of customers currently being serviced by business advisors, I do not believe they have that many business advisors to talk to all business customers, every business day of every month. For instance, in the branch where I went to open my account, the personal banking advisor informed me that the business-banking advisor only came around once a week, and he catered to all business account customers within the vicinity. That seemed like a lot of work for just one person, and I believe that if they had more staff servicing business customers, or even if normal personal banking staff such as the one that attended to me was better trained at this service, then it is possible that they would better inform customers of the process of opening a business account, and not just take a wild guess.
Technology that informs customers of the actual state of their accounts as they are having it opened is not available. This technology should be made available and staff should be trained appropriately, or better yet, the bank should wait off making a decision on the customer’s accounts, until it has been through all relevant procedures. In my case, it was first opened before going through an appraisal system. I believe the bank is so big and bureaucratic that a normal thing such as account opening has to go through several steps and procedures, through several departments that communicate electronically. If information gathering and decision making was maintained by one department, then the process would become more streamlined and customers would not have to wait that long.
Finally, probably due to the number of business customers the bank has, or the size of the bank at large, it is not able to maintain communication with all customers in the most appropriate way, which would either through meetings or telephone calls. The simplest method, which I experienced, was to send letters (probably automated) informing customers of an action on their accounts. Customers then have to call and be referred to several other parties, before an explanation can be reached, if one exists.
In conclusion, I believe the bureaucratic processes and lack of training of specific staff were reasons why I did not receive the sort of service I would have expected from Lloyds TSB when seeking to open a business account with them.