Barclays Bank: what are the customer experience folks up to? (part II)


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I reached out to Barclays to set up a business bank account. I chose Barclays because they promised to allow me to sign up online and because my wife and I have a joint personal account with them. My thinking was this is going to be easy! That did not turn out to be the case – I shared my experience here. In this post I am continue from where I left off.

Barclays provides two useful reminders

Upon wrapping up my conversation with the lady from Barclays she and I agreed a date when I would pop into my local branch to set up the account. Shortly after I hung up I received a text (as she promised) on my mobile giving me the date/time of the meeting and the name of the person I’d be meeting. “Excellent, that is useful!” is what I remembering thinking on reading the SMS.

About a week or so went by and then on the day of the scheduled meeting I got another SMS, in the morning, to remind me of my meeting. “Great”, I remembering thinking. And then I got busy getting hold of the paperwork because the lady on the phone had stressed the need to take in all of this paperwork:

  • My passport;
  • My wife’s passport;
  • Utility bill;
  • Certificate of Incorporation;
  • Memorandum and Articles of Incorporation.

As I didn’t not want to take any chances (that I was missing a document) I took along other proofs of identification and address. I also took along the the latest Barclays Bank statement for the joint personal account my wife and I hold with Barclays. Twenty minutes after getting into my car I was at Barclays Bank at the appointed time.

The signposting in the branch is poor: where do I go?

Entering the branch, it was not obvious to me where I needed to go. I could see the personal banking section, I could not see the business banking section. Luckily, Barclays had a lady standing right in the middle of the branch greeting people like me. I told her my business, she asked me to wait and off she went and returned a couple of minutes later to tell me that the person I was due to meet would be with me shortly. I am a ‘Landmark graduate’ and to me 14:30 means 14:30 – so that did not land too well with me. Thankfully, my contact was only 5 minutes late.

He apologised for being late and it occurred to me that it was not a genuine apology – it was clear that in his world it was OK to be late by 5 minutes. He was being polite so I responded by being polite responding with something like “Its, OK, no problem”. Whilst I saying this externally, there was a voice inside me saying the opposite “14:30 means 14:30. You are late. That means I cannot count on your word.”

The business banking area shows up in my world as a turn-off

My contact led me upstairs and I was struck with how the upstairs contrasted with the downstairs: upstairs was dull and functional. There was no colour in the place. There were no visuals that entice the eyes and sooth the heart. There was simply no softness, no warmth, no welcome in the environment. Which is another way of saying that I found the environment a turn-off. From there my experience got worse.

I provide my personal data for a third time and this third time it takes even longer!

My host took a seat at a desk and started looking into his computer monitor. Guess what he did? He started checking the same data that I had entered online and that the Barclays lady had asked me / verified on the phone. At this point I simply could not resist: “But that’s the data I entered online and then went through with the Barclays lady online!” The friendly, Barclays chap muttered “You must have been talking with the new accounts team. Un fortunately we have our own system and I have to check some of your details with you again.” When I pushed further the issue surfaced: there is a multiplicity of IT systems and they do not reliably talk to each other.

Fifty five minutes later I leave the branch wondering if I could consciously design a poorer experience?

As I left the Barclays Bank branch fifty five minutes after I entered it I reflected on the following:

The documents I had been told to bring in were not used because they were unnecessary. I had been asked to bring in identification, proof of address and company documents (Certificate of Incorporation and Memorandum/Articles). Yet, my contact had not asked for them. Once I gave him the details of our personal bank account with Barclays, he found it and so all the proofs were not necessary. And he looked up all the company details by accessing the publicly available information held by Companies house. “All of what he did could have been done by a computer when I signed up online over a week ago. What a waste of my time! And how inefficient of Barclays.” that was my exact thought.

My contact in Barclays had spent almost all of his time looking at his monitor checking my details as opposed to looking at me and being in a conversation with me. In the process I felt bored and kept wondering what I am doing here, what is he looking at? The one time he was struggling with something he turned his monitor towards me so that I could see it. Looking at the monitor I saw that my one of my address fields was spelt wrong. Clearly the Barclays lady (on the phone) had changed some of the data I had entered online. This got we wondering: “How many more fields are wrong because the lady on the phone misheard me or made typing errors?” I also could not help thinking that it would have been so much better (for me) and so much more efficient if the Barclays chap had ‘shared the monitor’ with me throught the process – that way I would have been ‘in the game’, could have spotted any mistakes and helped correct them.

Customer satisfaction measures are worthless. I have just spent about forty five minutes sitting in front of a young man supplying my personal data for the third time. My experience is one of being in an environment I dislike and a process that is so badly designed that only a fool would consciously design it this way. And I have shared, with this Barclays chap, how frustrating the whole experience has been for me. What does he ask me? How do you rate the service 10? I tell him that whilst he has been helpful/friendly, the Barclays experience has occurred as simply awful. He asks me how I would score it. I say “4 out of 10, at best.” His response, but you are happy with me. I say “Yes”. He says “That is a 10/10!” and proceeds to enter that into his system! What am I thinking? “No, no, no! First, you don’t ask that question face to face. Second, you never ever take people at their word – most of us don’t want to tell you to your face that you suck. Third, the only rating that counts is one that the customer gives without anyone being able to see what that rating is.”

The job/outcome is remains incomplete. I approached Barclays Bank to open up a bank account. It is some 10 days later and after spending about two hours with Barclays (internet, on the phone, branch) I am walking out o the branch and I still do not have a bank account. I don’t have a bank account number, I do not have a credit card, I do not have a cheque book, I do not have an online facility setup. What is more Barclays have not told me when I will receive this stuff. “I know what I have done for them. What have they done for me?” is the thought that hits me.

Final thoughts

The Barclays business bank account opening process is badly broken from a customer experience perspective. It is also inefficient and wasteful for Barclays.

The entire sign-up process can be done online especially if the people applying to open a business bank account already have an account with you and their business is a registered company. Why? Because then you have all the details at your fingertips (names, addresses, proof of identity, company details including shareholder, directors, date of incorporation etc).

Was the hidden agenda behind the branch visit x-selling and upselling? In the internet sign up process I had asked for a simple bank account as that is all that I need. Yet, in the branch the young chap was keen to sell me stuff that I simply did not need like online back up which I can get free or more cheaply with the likes of Dropbox.

Barclays IT systems (and organisational design) hinder the ability of the customer facing staff to give customers what they want. After some digging I learnt that Barclays IT systems are run/managed out of India to save costs. The sytems often go down sometimes as long as four hours at a time. Communicating with the folks in India can be a challenge. And the issue with the systems is a long running one that does not get better despite the money that has been spent in an attempt to glue up the systems.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Maz Iqbal
Experienced management consultant and customer strategist who has been grappling with 'customer-centric business' since early 1999.


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