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7 August 2009 | Dr Jenny Dugmore Blog
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Complicated Processes
This week Jenny shares with you her latest domestic disaster...

  Dr Jenny Dugmore

It’s very easy to be stirred into action about something being wrong and a lot harder to write about something that is right. It’s also easy to be passive and if something goes wrong to think ‘they did it.../they didn’t do it..../ it wasn’t my fault...’  Like most of humanity I find that faults make a more vivid impression than successes, something we all need to be alert to in service management.

It’s not surprising that what sprang to mind was my latest domestic disaster.  This was my personal credit card. Like most people I use it to shop over the internet and I was contacted by my bank because my credit card details had been stolen from a site I had used.

I believe this is a very common event so they must have a lot of practice.  I was in the middle of buying a series of items at the time they rang me so was able to say which of the charges were legitimate.  They were all legitimate as it happens, so we agreed they would all go through and then they would cancel the card.

So far, so good, then it started to go wrong.  It transpired that they did after all cancel most of the payments I’d made in the last few days, without telling me.  This included some where the goods had been delivered already.  I’m not sure what prompted the selection of those that were allowed to go through and those that were not as it seemed to be almost at random.  The aftermath took me quite some time to sort out and they are not all resolve yet. Part of the complication was that the cancelled credit card disappeared from my online banking site as soon as the card was cancelled – not just the recent details, but the history – all gone, as if the card had never existed.  Not a great help.

Then it got more complicated.  Three weeks later I was rung and asked ‘was I going to pay my off my credit card this month?’  This was in what can only be described as an accusatory tone and as I have no history of bad debt and I was well below my card limit I was a little surprised.  Naturally I asked why they had rung me about it this month when nobody had asked me before.  I think this confused the unfortunate individual tasked with ringing me because it was a question not covered by his script. 

My guess is that he’d been given a list of names and told he had to chase them all to make sure all debt were paid promptly, but no other information.  He was completely unable to answer and during the course of what turned out to be a very long call had to frequently put me on hold so he could ‘talk to his manager’.  In an odd way I found this level of incompetence reassuring, I had begun to think that the call might be some sort of scam, but I decided only someone being paid by my bank could reach such a level of incompetence.  A scammer would at least know what they were doing, even if it was criminal.

After a very long and frustrating exchange it transpired that the arrangement by which a minimum payment was made every month no longer worked because my credit card number had been changed – by the bank that was now contacting me to ask was I going to pay off my debt that month.

I could hardly believe this was what I was being asked, and as it had been difficult to get even to this level of understanding I asked one final question... ’Are you then saying to me that you need me to take action because one part of my bank can’t or won’t communicate with another part of my bank to make sure that the automatic payment transfers to the new card’. I just wanted to be sure I’d understood, I wasn’t being sarcastic but all I got was another five minutes on hold while he ‘talked to his manager’.

Eventually (I think) this has been sorted.  But it should not have been so painful; they have plenty of practice dealing with credit card fraud. What should they have done?  Ignoring what more might be done to protect credit card details, the problems started in how they handled the cancellation of the credit card.  I don’t make a practice of having my card details stolen, so I don’t know the process to be followed when it does happen, but my bank should be experts by now.  For example, they should not have cancelled payments we’d agreed were legitimate, they should have warned me that my credit card history would disappear from the internet site once it was cancelled.  I would have really appreciated a checklist – perhaps from their web site – listing all the things that you need to be aware of when this happens.  Also a process that keeps their bad debt department informed of what their fraud department are doing would be even better.  So next steps?  An opportunity to give them my (constructive) advice has landed in my lap.  I’ve been contacted to be interviewed over the phone about my views of the bank’s customer service.  I can’t wait!   

Any feedback and comments are always welcome!

Dr Jenny Dugmore Email to a colleague | Add to MY ITP

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