I've banked for at least 15 years with a fairly small local bank. Last year it was bought up by a larger bank (not one of the huge Wells Fargo, Bank of America behemoths, but larger nevertheless).
The official date for everything to be transferred to the new bank was last Monday. Online banking was shut down over the weekend to allow for integration of the two computer systems.
On Monday morning the online banking system worked briefly. Then it crashed. I couldn't get into my account.
During several phone calls to the customer service department of the bank, I was told they had no information. When I asked if the problem was connected with the system integration, I was told "We have no information." In reply to my question about when they thought the system would be running again, they told me - guess what - "We have no information."
It so happens that a good friend of mine works in the customer call center. He shared privately with me that they were specifically instructed to say they had no information, even though everyone in the call center knew they had a major computer problem.
Later that day, I called again and one honest person did indeed tell me that they had a huge computer problem, they were working on it and hoped to have the system back up by that evening but he couldn't promise that would happen. He apologized and asked for my understanding.
I noticed how frustrated and angry I was when I felt I was being stonewalled with the "no information" statement; and how relieved I was when someone had the courage to tell me the truth, even though it wasn't what I wanted to hear and it didn't change the situation one bit.
The next thing that happened was that I noticed errors online in my statements. On Monday customer service promised to investigate and call back by Monday evening. Didn't happen. By Friday evening I was still waiting. In the meantime, my opinion of this new bank dropped to new lows. If someone asked me whether I would recommend them, guess what I'd say?
Yesterday I told one of the tellers at my local branch about my problem and she said: "Not everyone is the right person to help you. Do you want me to call and find a person who can really help you? I know you're frustrated and I don't want you to leave us because I've known you so long." I'm collecting all my information and will take her offer to help. Let's see what happens.
Lessons to be learned from this experience:
It pays to be honest with your clients even if you don't have good news to share. Most people are understanding and forgiving if you tell them the truth rather than trying to cover it up, especially when what you're saying is so obviously not true. Even if the client doesn't like the truth, it's better than having no information at all and feeling that they're being treated like idiots rather than valued clients who deserve respect.
LESSON NO 2
A sincere apology helps to defuse a potentially nasty situation.
Do what you say you'll do. If you can't do it, don't promise it.
Value the power of personal relationships. They can work when all else fails.
Marketing is not just about GETTING clients. It's about how what you do AFTER to keep them happy ESPECIALLY when things go wrong.
Copyright 2005-2013 Maggie Dennison. All rights reserved.