HOW N-O-T TO DO BUSINESS, or “When You Treat Your Customers Like Dogs, They Sometimes Turn Around and Bite” — A CAUTIONARY FABLE ON DOING BUSINESS
BY DAN VALENTI
The customer is king, right? This is true especially in a down economy, where a business can’t afford to alienate even one member of its clientele.
Some companies get it. I think of R. J. Stohr’s Jewelers on North Street, who have made customer service part of their advertising tag line and back up those words with actions. Steven Valenti’s Clothing for Men, Paul Rich Furniture, Carr Hardware, and On a Roll Cafe — You can add any number of local businesses that get it.
Other businesses don’t get it, as we learn in today’s guest post by Susanne Wickham. Her target is TD Bank North in Pittsfield. Wickham is founder and president of Universal Payroll Associates, a payroll service, a company she has headed since 1998. Her experiences with a “local” bank can be read as a case study in how NOT to do business. Here is her tale of woe with TD Bank North.
‘Maybe This is Not the Right Bank for You’
BY SUSANNE WICKHAM
Yesterday (Jan. 20) I posted to my status that checks were clearing out of a checking account I have with TD Bank. This caused my account balance to go into the red by almost 500 dollars. Originally I thought these checks were fraudulent. They had the same account number as mine. However, upon closer inspection, I noticed that the ABA/routing number was different.
Consequently, before I headed into work yesterday, I stopped by the branch of TD Bank North that I have been using since I opened my business in Pittsfield in 1998. I have stayed with this bank through all the mergers and take overs. I used to run my payroll business through that bank, but I left three years ago because their back office was transferred to Maine and I wanted to stay local.
I still keep a tax escrow account there, which carries a large daily balance. I was grateful to that bank. They gave me my start. Jay Anderson, who is now the president of another local bank, worked with me to develop a business plan so I could secure an SBA loan. In the following years, I borrowed and completely paid off other business loans in the six-figure range.
Getting the Cold Shoulder
Yesterday, I headed into the bank branch. In the past few months, there has been a nearly total change of personnel, and the customer service reps and branch manager are all new.
I sat down with the customer service rep, Stephanie Drosehn, and explained my situation. I gave her my account number. I guess she did not see the large business account I have with the bank. The checking account in question carries a small daily balance. It’s an old joint account that I kept opened because my PayPal account is attached to it. I just never got around to closing it or changing the banking instructions.
When Drosehn looked at the check and I told her to look at the ABA number, she said that TD took over the bank and that it is actually one of their banks. Naturally, I assumed she would fix my account right then and there. Instead, she told me that the matter will go into research and that I should be credited back my money within 7 to 10 business days.
I told her that this was a bank error, and I should not have to have my account sit in the negative and not be able to use it because it is in the red. She said there was nothing she could do, except maybe I should talk to the branch manager. She was rude and condescending. I could have thrown my weight around: “Do you have any idea how much money I have at your bank or how much business I have done here”? But that was not the point. I should be treated with respect no matter if I had one dollar at the bank or $1 million.
Bjork ‘Not Any Better’
The bank branch manager, Linda Bjork, was not any better. She said Stephanie did what she was supposed to do. (I guess not covering the bank’s mistakes and treating your customers rudely is what she is supposed to do.) It was not until I started to get technical with her — “They must have not used MICR toner and it had to be manually cleared, so they hit the wrong key” — did she reluctantly credit back my money, although she used the term “provisional credit.”
Bjork then she said in voice that made me feel two inches high, “Your balance is back to $49.” I still didn’t say anything. I got up and said, “I am sorry for the inconvenience.” She said, “That’s alright.” I said “No! That is what YOU are supposed to say!”
When I checked my account a few hours later, the credit was there, but there were new charges, including overdraft fees!
Closing the Account
I marched myself back to the bank. This time, I dealt with a different customer service rep, one I’ve dealt with in the past. She was pleasant. I then said I wanted a cashier’s check for my business account, because I was closing the account. She looked at the balance and asked me if I would reconsider. I said no.
I told her to please relay this transaction to the bank manager (all the while the first customer service rep, Stephanie Drosehn, was listening.) I then told her I would be informing the higher ups on this matter.
If I treated my customers this shabbily, I would not be in business. My employees and I bend over backward for our clients, especially to correct an error we’ve created. I have driven from bank to bank with cash because a direct deposit file was not sent, and I wanted to make sure that all the employees of that client had the money in their accounts on payday. I have driven more than an hour to deliver checks because UPS lost a package. It goes on and on.
It’s too bad that corporate America no longer sees the value in each and every customer. They forget that as an individual, they might not mean much, but add them all together and that is your bottom line.
END OF STORY.
Coda to This Tale of Banking Woe
The Planet has its own TD Bank North story to add to Susanne Wickham’s. When we got Susanne’s column, we attempted to reach TD. Our plan was to send them the story and ask for their comment. Simple task, right?
We called directory assistance and got the toll-free customer service number: 800-747-7000. A woman named Dana answered. We asked for an e-mail address for either Linda Bjork or Gwen Davis, another TD Bank manager, who told Susanne when she pulled her business account: “Maybe this is not the right bank for you.”
Dana told us TD’s policy was not to give out internal e-mail addresses. Undeterred, The Planet asked for phone numbers for either Bjork or Davis. Dana put me on hold. We waited there for about three minutes, listening to the most soulless, characterless synthetic music imaginable. When Dana came back, she said she had located “a Gwen Davis in the Pittsfield area.”
The Planet requested the number. Dana couldn’t give it to me, because she said all she had was Pittsfield’s internal extension, and she didn’t know the rest of the number! Apparently, it didn’t occur to her to find the rest of the number for me. It’s either that, or she — the phone customer service rep — doesn’t have phone listings to branch offices. Either possibility is incredible.
We then said fine, connect us. Silence. Then more silence. Then the infernal bad phone jazz or muzak came back on the line, meaning the line wasn’t dead. Prior to that, we weren’t sure. We waited. We waited. Nothing.
We gave up, having eaten up too much time as it was. The Planet is sure Wickham’s story will reach TD Bank North, and when it does, we welcome anyone from the bank who wishes to comment.
Meanwhile, Planeteers, we invite you to post your comments. Good day!