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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Banking Follies

I've put in lots of time working in the banking industry. I have worked as a teller and in teller department support positions, including balancing ATMs. I have worked in the Proof department encoding processed items. And of course, I worked and trained in telephone customer service. I have dealt with all sorts of interesting people in all of my facets of banking, but I think that the most entertaining experiences were in telephone banking. 

The way people act on telephone calls as opposed to in person is pretty amazing. A relatively nice and calm person, when on the phone, will sometimes lose their mind. And the ones who are rude and cruel on a usual basis can make your life unbearable for the few minutes you are talking to them. I have had an elderly gentleman tell me that his wife, who died a few months ago, always took care of the banking, and that he is so lonely without her he no longer wants to be alive. Then there was the man who started his call by saying something to the effect of, "Listen, you effing b. I need my documents." That was the nicest part of the call. Unfortunately for us, we were not allowed to hang up on a caller, no matter how abusive they were to us. So I identified the call as malicious and had it taped. His business account was closed by the bank the next day.

I have had conversations with all sorts of people in all sorts of situations. Many times I had someone on the line who had made a mistake on their account and panicked because they thought their significant other would get angry with them. I became adept at talking people through their stress so that they didn't hyperventilate. And there were times when I was able to calm down someone who was out-of-their-mind angry. I even had one caller whose account number was packed with sevens, a number that gave her a mental block. When giving the account number, she said, "My account number is xxx, what's the number after six? xxx the number after six..." And I had a business customer call me on a bank holiday with an unusual request. She had gone to her branch, which was closed. There was a sign on the door reminding customers they could bank twenty-four hours a day via the customer service line. She informed me that she would like to deposit her day's worth of checks and cash received via phone! Strange but true!

A couple of calls that came to my former trainees popped into my memory just recently. "Joe," who had recently finished training class, came to ask me for help. Usually someone who didn't know how to handle a call looked stressed or confused, but he looked like he was trying hard not to laugh. This puzzled me, to say the least. "What's up with your call, then, Joe?" I asked. He started by telling me that it was a real call and that he was not making this up. A lady was on his line and she was offended by our recent advertising in her area. She wanted to inform us that we had put up a billboard that had a picture of Elvis that she found unflattering. If we didn't take down the billboard with the picture that made Elvis look fat (wasn't it his belly that made him look fat?), she was going to close her account. After laughing hysterically, I told him that he could fill out a customer feedback form. I bet the person who ended up reading it got a kick out of their job that day!

One of the all-time best stories came from a manager who worked the four p.m. to midnight shift. Her team would often receive calls that were related to branch issues, but the branches were closed by the time the customer had a chance to contact us. One of our seasoned phone bankers had a lady on the phone who had a problem. "I need you to call the branch and have them tell the man in the ATM that he didn't give me enough money." The banker asked if she realized it was a machine. "Yes, I know it's a machine, I'm not STUPID! Just call the branch and tell them that the guy in the machine didn't give me enough money!" Well, this went on and on and escalated to the manager. She decided not to fight it and simply told the customer that we would call the branch tomorrow and have the man in the machine research his transactions, and let her know when she could expect a credit back in her account. The lady finished the call satisfied that someone had responded to her needs so efficiently.

I don't have anything to top that at this moment, so I guess that is all for this edition of Banking Follies!