I've talked about customer service before in previous blog posts, but it's rare that I mention the specific name of the company with which I've had an issue. That's due to the fact that I'm usually able to work things out and it's not necessary to mention names on my blog.
Before I go into the details of the situations that prompted this blog post, I'd first like to share some background on my relationship with Bank of America. While the rest of the country is in outrage over the big banks receiving bailouts, their mishandling of home loan modifications and subsequent lawsuits by state attorneys general, I've been pretty happy with my relationship with Bank of America for many years.
I've been a Bank of America customer my entire adult life. From savings accounts to home loans to business lines of credit, they've served my needs well. While a lot of smaller banks have been squeezed by risk capital requirements, the big banks' coffers were swollen with the financial bailout and so have plenty of money to lend to well qualified customers. They generally still do what banks do - loan money and expect to get paid back, regardless of whether or not what you bought with the money is worth what you paid.
With the variety of financial products and locations nearly ubiquitous in Las Vegas, it's been very convenient to work with them. Granted, we've all had our challenges with banks working with their customers on various issues and Bank of America is no exception. However, there is one issue, not related to anything financial, that irritates me more than anything else about working with them:
Enter Bank of America's Online Chat
Online chat is a great new feature that many companies are beginning to offer via their websites. Just a few years back I'd still prefer to send an email or make a phone call to a company for customer service related issues. Now I really enjoy the convenience of online chat because it allows me to continue multi-tasking while I get help much faster than phone or email. While a customer service agent is looking something up on my account or getting help from a supervisor, I can continue on about my business and stay productive.
Before online chat, you'd have to go through a third degree security process, then wait on hold for the next available representative to take your call, wait some more while that same customer service representative searches for information related to your inquiry, speak with supervisors when they can't help and more all the while you were stuck on the phone. Online chat eliminates most of those hassles. Plus it's very helpful when you don't want to disclose all of your personal information verbally in front of an audience.
What a wonderful customer service move for Bank of America to add online chat to their repertoire, or so I thought. That's where the positive experience ends. Inquiries ranging from questions about my home loan, account profiles, credit card disputes to reporting technical issues with online banking, the only answer the online chat agents have is "Please call Bank of America at xxx-xxx-xxxx."
During the business day, my time is very valuable. Unfortunately, I simply don't have a lot of time to spend on the phone with customer support when that valuable time can be spent with customers and partners who are contributing to the growth of our business. The last thing I want to do is call their customer service number for the various reasons described previously. That's why I'm using online chat!
If online chat agents' only problem solving skills are to require you to call a customer service phone number, what's the point in implementing it? My conclusion is that Bank of America's online chat is about as useless as an already carved pumpkin the day after Halloween.
Unfortunately, their email support isn't much different because the result I usually get is the same. Are they afraid to put things in writing or is it simply too much work on their part to have someone put something in writing? At least have someone schedule a time to call me. None of these choices are options. The only option is to "Please call Bank of America at xxx-xxx-xxxx."
If you are going to enable online chat capabilities on your website, make sure that your chat agents can attend to your customers' needs. Therefore, don't offer online chat if you can't do everything you can for your customers via the phone or email.
If you are from Bank of America and reading this blog post, please pass along the message to the powers that be to improve the ability of your online chat agents to handle customer inquiries. I still like doing business with you, but if you continue to make it difficult to support my needs, I may have to look elsewhere.
After all, the power of the Internet lies with it's ability to bring your company to the customer, not with requiring them to jump through hoops to get support. If offering Online Chat via your website, make sure it doesn't leave a bad impression.
|About the author
Mark Cenicola is the president and CEO of BannerView.com, developers of BannerOS, the software that helps companies turn their websites into powerful business tools. Mark is also the author of the book "The Banner Brand – Small Business Success Comes from a Banner Brand – Build it on a Budget." Read Mark's full biography. You can find him tweeting on Twitter and starring in videos for the company's YouTube channel.
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