Technology, Humans and Customer Service

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7 January 2014
Daniel W. Latimore
This is a story about bad customer service and lessons it holds for financial services firms. At the risk of disclosing more than anyone might want to know about my personal finances, my last round of home refinancing brought me to Charles Schwab, where I took out a conforming first mortgage and a HELOC. Schwab then sold the servicing rights to Quicken Loans, who styles itself as the “Home Loan Provider of Charles Schwab Bank.” There were the not-unexpected glitches during the handoff, and my excellent local Schwab rep ended up giving me a customer service credit. Thinks got bad, though, when I attempted to pay down some extra principal on the HELOC in August. First, Quicken Loans credited it to the main mortgage. I didn’t notice for a couple of months (since I pay by autodraft, a point that becomes important later on in this story), and when I did, in October, the Quicken Loan CSR was very nice and said that they’d take care of crediting it to the proper account, the HELOC, right away. You’d think that I’d pay attention, but she seemed so competent, and I was on the road so much, that I blithely assumed everything was fine. So one November day I happen to be working from home and notice Quicken pop up on the caller ID. Uncharacteristically, I answer the phone. A Quicken Loans CSR starts reading stiltedly from a script, informing me that I’m delinquent and asking when I’m going to pay my mortgage (the next day I got a half-inch thick nasty-gram telling me that my mortgage payment was 64 days past due and my loan was in default)! I realize what’s happened and not-so patiently explain that I’m on auto-draft, this is their mixup, it’s outrageous, etc. I ask to speak to a supervisor. The CSR declines to put me through, but confirms that I’m on auto-draft and asks to call me back. She does, ten minutes later, and tells me that everything is resolved. But that’s not the end of the story. The nasty-gram:Quicken Loans Over the course of the next two weeks I receive three more calls asking why I haven’t paid. I ask each CSR to read the notes and get this resolved. Finally a “team leader” calls and assures me that everything would be squared away; she was apologetic and accepted blame – it was unfortunate it took so long to get someone who could do that. As of this writing things appear to be back to normal, although I’m checking my statements much more assiduously now. So what has this cost Quicken? I asked for compensation; they credited me $250 and wrote a non-form letter stating this wasn’t my fault and hasn’t been reported to credit agencies. My Schwab rep, who I called to let know what was happening, was mortified and spent time working the situation from his end. He also credited me an unsolicited customer service gesture. So what are the lessons for an FSI?
  1. Have your CSRs do more than simply read dumbly from a script. Train and empower them to look beyond what the system generates.
  2. Teach the CSRs to read the notes that their colleagues have left. Better yet, assign one consistent rep to potential problem cases – it may be more efficient in the long run than passing a case among different people.
  3. Accept blame when it’s warranted – it goes a long way toward making your customers feel better. At the end of the day, person-to-person interactions go much better when they’re between people, rather than a script on one side and a person on the other.

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Asia-Pacific, EMEA, LATAM, North America