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Excrutiatingly Bad, Incompetent, Sickening
Member Name: sgbett
Disadvantages: Botched Online Banking, Oblivious to Customer needs
I joined the co-operative bank as part of a deal through the Federation of Small Businesses. The benefit being that I would get free business banking.
I have since rued the day I ever left Barclays (not a recommendation, other banks are available...) , I don't particularly like banks at the best of times but the Co-Op have made me want to gouge out my own eyes and smash my computer to pieces.
The biggest problem is the online banking service. When I first joined (2009), it was pretty bad. It was consistently and repeatedly unavailable, perhaps 50% of the times I tried to access it. When it was working it was extremely unresponsive (5+ second page load times) and would regularly throw errors.
Whilst this was disappointing, it was only a taste of what was to come.
2010 saw the co-op release a new version of online banking, and with it the introduction of a whole new level of agony for their customers.
I rank as "above average" in terms of computer literacy. As the director of an IT company, with 15 years of programming behind me I can be fairly confident in saying that I have an adequate grasp of using websites.
The new online banking service is an embarrassment to the company, I think satan himself has created a whole new circle of hell into which the people who designed, developed and signed off this system will spend the afterlife.
First of all the introduction of the "Security Token". For those who have not had the pleasure of using this device, I shall explain. To increase the level of security when using online services, a physical device (like small calculator) is issued to the customer. This device is used to authenticate certain actions. Without going into the detail of it, it is virtually impossible for a malicious person to crack this security without having physical access to this security token device so that they can extract the encryption key on it.
I understand that given the potential dangers around the average joe's understanding of online security (and the lack thereof) that the introduction of these devices was inevitable. (if only to protect the bank's bottom line - but that is another story) However there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it.
The benefit of online banking, is that you can access your accounts from anywhere with an internet connection. Now if you take NatWest as an example (again, not a recommendation, other banks may implement the same way...) they only require your security device when you are creating a new payment from your account to a new payee.
This is a sensible precaution.
They do not require you to carry your calculator with you at all times just so that you can log into your account; The Co-Op does.
This is the first step on the road to irritation. Why should I have to carry a device with me at all times just so I can check my account? Surely the very fact that I am carrying it about the place is in fact counter-productive as it is now much more easy for me to lose the device and for it to potentially fall into the wrong hands. Have they even thought about this? That is a rhetorical question.
The second glaring, incompetence fuelled, error was to issue people with yet another 'token' for them to lose - this time in the form of an account id. When I originally joined co-op, I was give a username - I was not allowed to choose this username. The small mercy being it was a fairly easy to remember contraction of initials+surname.
This second 'token' is not so easy to remember, an account ID in the form A12BCD, a random alphanumeric code.
So now I have two codes, neither of which I chose myself (perhaps I should write them on a post it note and stick them to my monitor? as opposed to remembering the passwords that I choose...) to enter along with the mandatory use of a physical device that generates a unique 10 digit code that must also be entered every time I want to log in.
Still this is only the tip of the Iceberg.
Once we enter the system, we are confronted with horrible unintuitive menu options. Screens which are clunky and poorly thought out.
I have used Barclays, Nat-west, LLoyds, Halifax and Santander. Whilst they all have there little niggles and quirks, they are essentially all quite usable. Some even a pleasure, insomuch as one can only find so much pleasure in having to deal with banks.
For example you are presented with a summary of your accounts and their respective balances when you log in, clicking on one of your accounts shows you the days transactions to see more you have to mess about with date ranges. How about just showing the last 10 or 20 with a pager, have we done any use cases? requirements capture? actually even thought about what your average customer does when they are online? No.
When we are forced to choose dates, instead of allowing us to choose a future date and then subsequently informing us we cannot do such a thing. Why not prevent it in the first place, or failing that just silently change it, or better still have a think about it - if i want to see transactions for tomorrow, or the day after then just show me them i.e. there are none! Show me none! don't complain about me wanting to see no transactions, I'm the customer, thats what I want, show me the 'no transactions' screen!
So it goes on, clumsy functionality, that is inconsistent unintuitive and is more representative of the bank's and their developer's view of things, than how a customer might want to interact with them.
Quite the worst website I have had to endure. I've used some real stinkers.
Next we come to the fraud department, and their repeated blocking of transactions, because they appear to be fraudulent. Like for example payments to our Server Provider, who we pay the same amount to every month for the past year or so. Or payments to Apple for internet services, to whom we also make regular payments.
I have never asked for, nor do I require my bank account to be babysat. I am trying to run a small business, that means when I need to make a purchase, or settle an invoice that I am able to do so with the minimum of hassle. Not to have to then spend half an hour on the phone to the fraud centre, to tell them that, "yes, we do wish you to authorise that payment that we make every month for the same amount".
Speaking of call centres, I wonder if the co-op understands what business expects from business banking, after all we do pay for it (lets not be so naive as to think that this 'free' banking that I have isn't actually subsidised by the FSB...).
We expect to be able to speak to someone promptly and directly. Instead we face the automated call handler. Something we come to accept, but still no less irritating, particularly when the options are all effectively "Would you like to *do this thing you could do online*". No. If it was something I could do online, then painful as it may be, I would have done it online. I'm calling because I can't do it online. How about you make that option 1?
However, I understand that this is again just the way things are, so we sit through the options until finally "if you would like to speak to a member of staff" presents itself.
Now when I first made the call, the call recording software asked me for my account number and sort code. So why is it that I am then asked for this again by the call centre staff? Only then is this dutifully transcribed into there system, so that we can both enjoy waiting for the search to complete. Perhaps we could use the fact I already entered my account number to make sure that this is the account that is already on the screen when the call centre op picks up the call?
I've already wasted too much time on this, but I fear if I didn't express my sheer rage at this second rate organisation that it would shorten my life.
I hope that this warns you well. I will be switching at the first available opportunity, and I will gladly pay for my banking in future, provided that it bears no resemblance to the abominable service that you get at the co-op.
Summary: Would recommend to my worst enemy.