THE NEW GLOBAL WE.

Bank of America Customer Service Tragedy

Posted in Big Thought, Business, People, Reviews by Harsha on August 27, 2008

I thought about writing this post for quite a while. The incident is still fresh in memory – it happened just last week. But I think the Bank has had an acceptable window of opportunity to respond and they still have not.

First up, as a generally creative but grounded-in-processes kinda fellow, I really appreciate how complicated it is for a large organizations to work well. I’ve never been in one, but as a pioneer in most of the stuff I’ve done at my current small business gig, I can imagine how much planning and management goes into developing a customer service process at a bank. Think about the meetings that managers would have had in the past and in the present as well, about what happens when a customer calls into the 800 line. Now that process must adhere to their internal Service Level Standards (SLA) where they might say that 98% of issues must be resolved in one call, or something to that effect.

They must also deal with a myriad of types of calls, all being funneled through the same system and routed accordingly. The complexity amazes me. So whenever I call into any such organization with an issue or complaint, I generally approach it with as much respect as I can. I am never that irate caller who will jump down the throat of a poor little representative. I adopt a much more consultative approach.

But all that got thrown out the window when I called into Bank of America last week.

Here is some history on the problem, without going into too much detail: I opened a 0% APR American Express card with Bank of America less than a year ago and transferred a large loan balance to it and have been paying it off $1000 a month. The statement closes every 22nd and the minimum is due by the following 11th. I’ve always made this payment well in advance of the 11th deadline. This time, I ended up making it even before the 22nd statement close so basically my payment got tagged to the previous month.

When I called to clarify this, I was rudely informed by the representative that it is my fault for ‘paying late’ and that I will lose the promotional 0% APR. Then I asked her to check with her supervisor and she came back a little while later saying that they have decided to reinstate the 0% APR as a courtesy. I was delighted and thanked her and realized after I hung up that I had not asked about the $39 late fee. To me, it makes sense to roll it back because they ‘forgave’ the ‘late payment’ by reinstating my 0% APR, so why should I pay the late fee? Mind you, I absolutely agree and understand a late fee for late payments – no argument there.

When I called back, I said that if the Bank has rolled back the 0% APR because I am forgiven for the ‘late’ payment, then why would I pay a late fee? The representative talking to me couldn’t for the life of her understand my logic. So we started arguing back and forth and she said the same thing repeatedly and so did I – classic stalemate situation. So I asked her to connect me to her supervisor. What she did next was appalling – she actually threw me off the line and I ended up at the beginning of the call where you give the machine your card details to find the best route for the call. You’d think I would have given up, but I did not.

When the next representative came on the line (now I’m angry and my voice is louder) I told him about the way in which I got bumped off the previous call and said that I realize none of this is his fault but, come on! getting kicked out is just unacceptable! Since I was angry, after hearing why I called, he offered to cut my fee down to half but no more because representatives are not authorized to do so. In fact, he said that he was not even supposed to offer me half off on the fee, but was doing it because I was upset. I was unable to wrap my head around the fact that half of the fee was being refunded as a ‘courtesy’ but the other half wouldn’t be. So I asked him if he was being half courteous and half rude. Of course, such rhetorical questions only incite the flames of anger, and it did. We started arguing and I said that if he could roll back half my fee while not technically supposed to, then why not roll back the entire fee? Why partially commit the crime? And so on and on we went… Finally I said to him that half off was not acceptable and asked him to connect me to his supervisor. Thankfully he did. I left a message, in a super angry mode, hoping to evoke a response, but I have none so far.

My issue is NOT with the $39 fee. My issue is with the LOGIC of this whole situation. First of all, I did not make a ‘late’ payment. I ended up making two payments in the same month, a day early. In this tough economic environment, I am making multi-thousand dollar payments on-time (except this once), have a checking and savings account with Bank of America and am poised to buy a home next year. Despite all this and the threat of me switching to Discover (which is flooding my mailbox with offers), I am unable to fathom why the fee and worse still, why half the fee? If there was ANY logic to this, and I was indeed a payment too late, then for sure, I will not argue if the Bank starts charging me a high APR and fine me $39.

But when they have reinstated the 0% as a courtesy, why should they charge me $39 or even half of that? A pissed off customer with options is the worst kind of customer. Or am I too small for a large Bank like Bank of America to give a rats ass about? To add insult to injury, they are yet to respond to me.

Check out Bank of America Sucks. I am not that mad at the Bank – all I want is my fee refunded because it is illogical to charge it in the first place. Will someone from the Bank PLEASE respond?

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7 Responses

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  1. experienceaurie said, on August 28, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    You have to be very careful whenever you hear the words…”as a courtesy.”

    I am all too familiar with managing a financial institution because I am the person who you get upset at…and whenever I use the word “refund as a courtesy,” I am absolving the bank/FI of responsibility for the reasons why the fee or whatever circumstance occurred in the first place. The courtesy statement basically is code language that should be understood as such: I am refunding the fee not because we made a mistake or an error on your account, but because we value your account relationship with us. I will gladly explain why it happened and what steps need to be taken to avoid it in the future. However, if it is totally not your fault, you should have every right to be upset and point out your consumer rights when that happens. There are alot of disclosures that protect the employees of financial institutions and I am not suprised at the outcome. I am, however, appalled at the bad treatment you received being kicked out of the customer service cue. That has happened to me with my cellphone carrier not even 3 months ago.
    I feel your pain for sure having been on both ends of the spectrum.

  2. Harsha said, on August 28, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Thank you for your comment Experienceaurie. That is precisely why I am extra careful usually because you are just following directions from a supervisor/manager. What I was amazed was neither did I get connected to someone who could make a decision nor have they responded yet. I think I’ve been more than thoughtful – but do let us know if there are other effective strategies that might work.

    Have a great day!

  3. johnnypolo said, on August 28, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    I worked not too long ago as a Bank of American Customer Service Rep for over two years. Your situation seems very familiar, one that over the course of an eight hour day I would get multiple times. The computer misread your payment, that happens. BOA has changed a lot of their rules about refund policies. As long as nothing has changed within the last six months, this is how it is…

    When I first started there, you had the ability to refund any and all fees. Obviously they told us not to, but we are reps never got punished for them. We had monthly evaluation peroids where they looked at the stats from our calls, listened to two of our calls at random a month and it determined whether or not we got a pay raise or bonus. Initally we just had to score a 90 out of a 100 or above on our two recorded calls and they listened for keys things. If you said the customers name, said the banks name at least twice, and were pleasent. It wasn’t hard to get above a 90. Then, they looked at about 40 different averaged stats we had ranging from our transfering calls rate to to amount of money refunded per call. But the only stat that was calculated into our pay? It was how quickly we got you off the phone. Our call average had to be less than three and a half minutes or we didn’t get a raise. So my procedure, along with many other coworkers, was just refund whatever was asked by the customer because it didn’t affect me. Sure, once a month my boss will say I’m refunding too much, but that was the worst of it.

    Before I left, they changed their refund policy. We, the reps, were no longer allowed to make any decisions about refunds. They used a new software where we put the amount of late payments you’ve had and previous refunds you’ve received to pull a number out of nowhere and tell you how much you can refund. I remember having to tell many people, “well, I can’t refund the full $39, but I can offer you $4 as a courtesy”. I know a friend that still works there, and says nothing has changed. Obviously, more people get upset because we can’t just refund their money back to them for these awful bank charges causing the reps calls to be longer because of arguing, therefore very few people were getting pay raises or bonuses, and many people were doing so poorly with their call times that they were receiving pay cuts.

    I think I’ve typed too much, but I thought I’d just share what I know with you. I hope you get your money back, but if you don’t, make a complaint about their “refund tool software”, because with you the person you are talking with no longer even has the ability to give you your money back. It’s forbidden for to to tell you software is deciding how much money to give you, so if the rep hears the words refund tool, they won’t know what to do. Good luck.

  4. distinque said, on August 29, 2008 at 4:31 am

    I still don’t understand why paying the payment earlier got you a “coutesy” 0% interest back. They should’ve thanked a customer like you and apologized for the silly system. Are they pissed that you’re not paying any interest? I don’t get it.

  5. nearlynormalized said, on August 29, 2008 at 9:21 am

    So, What’s new? If you don’t fit into the paralell lines you lose. No improv on the Banks end, you wrote outside the line and that is a no no. Sorry to hear about your trouble, try bundling up your cable; TV, computer, business telephone including toll free # and residental service. I thought it would be a little easier service. It has been over two weeks since the plan was to take place and it is still not properly connected. Business calls on residenal line both business and residental answering machines go off at the same time, we don’t have our toll free number beacause of the magic word “portal”. (I don’t know what it means in regards to Cox Cable but the word is thrown around frequently) Do you think it is confusing for both customers and friends? You betcha, all I can do is laugh because the buttons are not being switched by the proper person and if you get a little to heavy handed they might not be switched at all. B of A and Cox Communications they should take lessons from eachother.

  6. raja devanathan said, on September 28, 2008 at 8:09 am

    Your situation I guess is not uncommon with today’s multinational banks. But it sucks how they “understood” your situation but still couldn’t waive the “late” fee, or “early” fee I should say.

    To avoid this, do they have scheduled payments available as part of their online banking. This is what I do for CC, or loan payments. I use scheduled payment system using my online banking facility, and it all happens quite nicely.

  7. […] my most memorable experience was with Bank of America. I wrote a few posts about it, so read the before first, then a quick update during the resolution process, and after my problem was resolved. I […]


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