After multiple attempts to work with you to get things right, maybe a public letter may get more attention. Your customer service, or lack thereof, makes me feel like I am part of your practical joke.

Being new to London, I have received a lot of advice on things I must do when I first arrived, like opening a bank account. Without a bank account, you cannot get paid; without getting paid, you cannot secure a rental and without an address, you cannot open a bank account. So, you’re stuck in this cyclic loop of nowhere – unless you’re like me, lucky to have a place or address when you first arrived.

HSBC and Barclays were two banks I was told I could open a bank account with an international proof of address otherwise you need a local UK proof of address which anyone new to the country would not have.

I strolled into HSBC with the assumption that as a global bank, they would have the most efficient systems and best customer service. Well, those were the two things they do not have at all I later learned.

1. I had to make an appointment to come in to open a bank account. Having lived in several countries around the world, both in developing and developed nations, this is a first. However, I can understand why they have such system even though I disagree with it. The guy at the bank (Islington High Street) told me that there’s no availabilities until the week after; undeterred, I decided to phone the bank instead and was told that I can make an appointment at that same bank first thing in the morning the next day. I wondered if the guy has received misinformation or he has just decided to play the first prank on me with a wrong information.

2. The lady who took my details, Sabrina, asked me a series of questions, a couple of documents and gave me her business card because it would take 2 weeks to get my account sorted. Blasphemy! I didn’t think I have a choice so I waited.

3. I never heard back, so I emailed Sabrina a few times after the two weeks wait. Each time, I received a short, precise and blunt, “I am still waiting for the approval and I will contact you when I hear back.” This went on for a few weeks so on the 4th week, I sent a stern email requesting for more information on the status instead of a standard reply. I received a phone call from Sabrina asking me all the questions she asked me when I first had an appointment with her. She said she’d keep me posted, which she did call me several times and things seemed to progress. A few days later, she told me she was going on holidays, but gave me her manager’s email. At this point, there was still no sign I would get a bank account.

4. I emailed the manager, Kevin M, and was contacted by Ardita on the 5th week – Ardita’s on the roll. She called me right away and asked me all the questions Sabrina has asked me twice before – for the third time! She then again, promised to keep me in the loop and she actually did. Within 24 hours, I received the confirmation that my bank account is finally created, after 5 weeks! Hurrah!

5. I received my bank card 3 days later which is standard postage timeframe and called the bank to set up a security number in order to activate my internet banking. After a significantly inconvenient wait, I was told that my verification information wasn’t correct and she cannot tell me what information I gave wrong – this was very odd. I had to then go to a bank to set it up, which I did. The lady at the bank was efficient and friendly and I set up my security number within minutes. I then went back to set up my internet banking and now waiting on one of those hardware for passwords.

6. I then tried to activate my debit card today, which I did successfully over the phone, but when I tried to use it, I was told that the card was denied. I called the Customer Service and after being put on hold for several minutes, he told me that my card was blocked even though I have done all of those things they wanted me to.

And this is just half way through my battle trying to set up a bank account in London. Throughout the entire time, the team has not been apologetic, there is an implication of “too bad dude, can’t do anything about it”. There is no suggestion of how they can make up for it and in some cases, I’ve been requested to do things at their convenience, i.e. call at this time, go here to do this because their internal systems aren’t linked so it has to depend on whether or not the person on the other end picks up the line. At one point, the person on the line even implied that there’s nothing I can do and it’s my fault I provided the wrong information according to their system.

This feels like an April Fools prank that’s gone on for too long.

Having said that though, even though HSBC has a strong marketing team, it needs a complete overhaul on its customer service and I am happy to consult with you on your service design. I know some remarkable designers specialising in service design and design thinking which I am happy to recommend.

I just hope that this practical joke ends soon. I should have found the #HSBCFAIL hashtag on Twitter earlier, before I decided on starting a relationship with you.

Kind regards,

  • Troy Donnelly

    They’re the worst! You should try closing an account with them – it’s an absolute nightmare. Go walk into Barclays (or move back to Melbourne!)