Closing an account with HSBC

How difficult can it be to close an account?

Closing a bank account. I never thought it’d be quite that difficult. I phone HSBC and I ask for my current account to be closed. This is how the conversation goes:

Operator: “Oh I can’t do that. I need to put you through another department. I need to put you on hold,  ok?”

Me: “Ok”

Operator: “Sorry for the wait. I’m afraid their computer systems are down. They are not going to be able to process your account closure right now. You need to phone back in a couple of hours. It’ll be fixed by then.”

Me: “Can I just write a letter instead? I only need to request an account closure.”

Operator: “No, you can’t. You can only close accounts with us on the phone or in branch.”

The problem is my local HSBC branch no longer accepts to deal with consumers (they only care for businesses you see). And when I went to the branch in town the previous Saturday, I was told there is no one in branch on a Saturday who can close accounts – I must come during the week. Except that like most people…I happen to be at work during the week.

The call centre operator adds: “you must fill an account closure form, you see. That’s why you can’t do it by post. It’s best to call us back later.”

For a fleeting moment, I’m considering calling later; so I ask which department I need to ask to speak to when I call back. “You just ask to be put through the Retention Department” he says.

The ‘Retention’ Department???

What HSBC could do instead

HSBC sells a lot services beyond current accounts: it sells mortgages, loans, savings accounts, insurance and more. One bad customer experience in one area affects its customer acquisition in other areas of its business.

One painful experience like this one is enough to taint HSBC’s image to make customers switch with gusto? About 6 months’ ago, I had a similar experience with HSBC as my former mortgage provider. I was told it would take two weeks just to speak to one of their mortgage advisors. So I switched mortgage provider.

If I was running the customer experience department (assuming there is one!), I’d make sure that whatever dealings customers have with HSBC, they are simple and painless. How? I’d approach the problem like a piece of software with a lot of bugs to iron out:

  1. I’d listen to hundreds of customer calls and survey customers who recently called the call centre and used the branches to make an audit of the top 10 biggest customer experience issues to fix.
  2. As part of point 1, I’d also aim to get a customer satisfaction score as a benchmark.
  3. I’d take each category of issues one by one and get on with finding solutions.
  4. I’d get the best solutions implemented.
  5. I’d reiterate the process until customer satisfaction scores approach the 95% mark.

In this particular case, the operator should have been able to email me a web link to a web page where I can find a web form to fill in to close an account. Remarkably easy to do and it would cost virtually nothing to implement.

The question I suppose is whether HSBC is motivated enough to care about customer experience.

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