Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Service...for Customers??


I had the strangest experience today. It was a sensation that was somewhat familiar - but dream-like - as if it were something I last felt in childhood.

If I remember correctly, it used to be referred to as "Customer Service" in the good old days.

No, no, not the department you call with trepidation when you find the time to remain on the line for a minimum of 20 minutes, getting transferred five times before reaching a human being who is probably a contract worker in India knowing little and giving you incorrect information about the actual airline/product/service. Not that kind of Customer Service. That's what I'm used to.

But no. I mean actual service for customers.

You see, I just took the position of Treasurer of our condo association last week. As you may imagine, I was thrilled to take on this added responsibility since I have so much time on my hands right now. But, I digress. Along with this position, I inherited an account at a local establishment called Broadway Bank. I had to go in yesterday to change the account over to my name. Allow me to share what I encountered there:

1) I walked into a gorgeous, big, open room - the architecture was beautiful! To my right, there was a sea of bankers - I mean, at least 20 of them, sitting at desks, helping people. In. Person. I was immediately seated in front of someone who helped me quickly and easily. Here in the city, I am accustomed to walking into a sterile Bank of America office where there is not a single banker visible; they are in closed offices in the back. And there are never more than two of them, so the wait is ridiculously lengthy.

2) One of the employees actually used an IBM Selectric typewriter to fill out a form for me. The kind of typewriter I learned to type on in, oh, 1987. Awesome.

3) I worked with another banker to set up an online account. Now, I have no idea about the quality of said online banking system - and this is a feature I use a lot and love about Bank of America - but they gave me a form to fill out by hand (user ID and password) and told me that it would be up and running by the next morning. I was given a little slip of paper filled out with my codes so that I wouldn't forget: again, handwritten. Amusing as hell.

4) I hadn't had time to check and see if my online account was working yet, but at lunchtime I received a personal email from the banker who helped me sign up for it. Yes, a personal email, folks! I went online and couldn't get it to work; somewhat disappointed with the old school bank, I replied to her email letting her know I was having a problem.

5) Not five minutes after sending my email, the phone rang. When I saw "Broadway Bank" on the caller ID, I just about hollered, "You are shitting me!!!" Yes, the same woman was calling me to help me, which she did very easily.

What the hell??

I think it's very sad that such an experience was so incredibly mind-blowing. No wonder the incidence of depression is so high in America. I'd love to see a study showing the decrease in daily person-to-person interaction over the past thirty years.

Sometimes...well, our country is such a detached and lonely place.

6 comments:

Shan said...

Wow--that IS something. (An aside: as someone who used to live less than 2 blocks off Broadway, I am dying to be reminded where Broadway Bank actually is. It sounds SO familiar....) By the way, I went into a bank like that here in Northfield with both girls earlier this summer to get something notarized. Old-fashioned lobby, tellers behind big tall counters, no line, the whole nine yards. Nice. Another aside, though--Christopher and I lived in Chicago for six years, as you know, and we always said, that whole time, that the main culture shock for us about moving there was the complete and utter lack of customer service. I know it happens everywhere, but coming from Minneapolis to Chicago it was an especially jarring shock. And it was wonderful to move back to Minneapolis later on, and suddenly notice friendly, smiling cashiers, helpful bank tellers, etc. (Not that it's perfect here by any means, but it was a definite trend we noticed!)

Jordan said...

Shannon, the bank is at 5960 Broadway so it's up here in Edgewater. There are only four branches in the entire city; I can't figure out how they are surviving as a local, independent bank with Chase, B of A, etc. around them...I'll switch some accounts there to support them if it proves to be easy enough to use (and if I can use someone else's ATMs without a million dollar charge every time!!). ;-)

Christopher Tassava said...

I'm impressed! That's good service, all right - and yes, it is a sad comment on American capitalism that despite constant talk about customer service, this kind of *actual* service stands out so markedly. Thinking about the customer service here in Northfield - a stereotypical small town - I'm often struck by how relentlessly friendly and nice everyone is - even when they are doing a terrible job. I have in mind a certain server at a downtown restaurant who made me one of the worst espressos ever, but who was super-happy to be doing it!

(Reading Shannon's comment, I was *sure* she was going to recount one of her horrific stories about the customer abuse at the TCF branch inside "our" Jewel at Broadway and Addison: I still get queasy thinking about the incompetence.)

Oh, The Joys said...

It's so random and odd to have a GOOD experience now.

Shan said...

Oh my God, I think I must have blocked from my memory our ridiculous experiences at the TCF in the Jewel around the corner from our East Lakeview apartment (the Jewel at Broadway and Corne lia). Seriously, when I read C.'s comment above I had only the vaguest sense of something going horribly, horribly wrong there, what seems now like many years ago. I seem to recall yelling, complaints to managers, and letters written. And nothing being done about any of it. Man, customer service in Chicago SUCKED!!! Oh--have you ever heard our Chicago DMV story? Stop me!

Marketing Mommy said...

Wow, your experience was a far cry from what I encountered at the big Chase branch in downtown Oak Park. I showed up around noon to find ONE teller working. She disappeared for 20 MINUTES to stick my coins in the counting machine and took another 15 minutes to process a deposit for me. Meanwhile, the line behind me grew longer and longer. Four people were standing behind the "customer service" desk and there were bankers behind desks and in cubicles, but apparently none of them were moved to get behind the counter and help anyone with something so lowly as a teller service.

And when we went downstairs to the safety deposit box section...no one was working there either.