Banks, rubbish customer service and the troubling case of two PINs

Written by on July 14, 2016 in Opinion with 1 Comment

Stressed businessmanThe saga of the worst online banking experience in the world continues. A system that no-one can simply log on to and use, and one that has too many PINs, continues to cause much smoke and swearing in the offices of DisruptiveViews.

My learned colleague Tony Poulos was in Vancouver at the TM Forum’s Action Week. He needed some money transferred to his account. He asked me to do it, as his smart card and reader were sitting beside his computer in France.

My heart sank, I got goose bumps. My palms felt clammy. I told myself that I had done this before. All I needed was a free hour, maybe two, and I could make the transfer.

I logged on. I entered my customer number, well three random digits of it. I entered my user ID, well three random digits of it. I entered my PIN (as it turned out just one of my PINs), well, three random digits of it. I entered my password, yup, three (they get the point, Ed).

Wrong password. Or PIN, they wouldn’t tell me.

I tried again.

Same result.

I thought I had better reset my password, and PIN, otherwise I would be locked out and thrown into the darkness of cyber space.

I logged on. I clicked the thing that says ‘request new password or PIN’. A message said that an email with a code was on its way to my inbox, and would be with me within 30 minutes. Impressive, eh?

After 30 minutes, I got a code.

I logged in. I entered my customer number. I entered my user ID. I saw that my password had actually expired. You have to change it every 28 days. Fair enough, but maybe tell me that before I try and log in with the old one?

I tried creating several passwords and PINs and a message said they were not acceptable. The only clue was that my password must be eight digits, and at least one had to be alphabetic (what?) and one numeric. And no punctuation or other dodgy characters. Um, forgive me, but what would the other six digits be if they couldn’t be punctuation? Emojis? Oh, yes, letters or numbers.

Having reset my password, I had to log in again.

I entered my customer number, well three random digits. User ID, next screen, PIN, password.

I held my breath.

I was in. I felt like Andy Murray.

I even remembered that half way down the left hand menu, straight out of a UNIX box from the 1980s was a tab that said ‘payments’. I found the right template. I entered Mr Poulos’ reference, and amount, and clicked ‘make payment’.

I was there. I was elated.

But no. Three screens of confirmation later, the last one came up, with a challenge code. I rummaged for my card reader. Inserted the card. Entered the challenge code. Entered the PIN. Wrong PIN. Maybe I entered it wrong. Tried again. Wrong. Two tries left. Deep breath, careful…wrong PIN. I had just created a new one. I knew I was right.

I went through the entire process again. Another 30 minutes, another link, another nightmare of screens and random digits.

Finally I was back. I even found the existing payment set up and ready.

The challenge code.

The PIN. Careful. Steady…

Wrong PIN.

And it stopped working. The reader went blank. And stayed blank.

I wondered whether to try and call them, or simply cry. Another hour on hold? I saw the ‘chat with a live person’ at the top of the screen. I clicked and within a blindingly fast five minutes was ‘chatting with Jess.’ Jess was a human, I was assured – by the system, I was not sure at all. She took me through what I already knew, several times. Asked me to log in again. After a while, the crunch.

‘Did you enter your log in PIN or your reader PIN into the reader?’

‘Surely you are not telling me that you have two PINs and you call them the same thing?’

‘Did you enter your log in PIN or your reader PIN into the reader?’

‘I entered the PIN I just, correction an hour ago, created’.

‘That is your log in PIN. Would you like me to show you how to order a new smart card?’

Several responses went through my mind, none nice. It was not her fault, whether she was human or not. So I said ‘yes’.

I logged in. Again.

I failed. Again. I got in on the third try.

I trailed through a myriad of complicated pages and ordered a new smart card. Jess said I could order a new reader at the same time. I said do I need to? She said no, but it might be nice to have a spare. I said I had a drawer full of them. And I generally only use them to try and get into my bank account, I don’t generally lose them.

Jess said ‘is there anything else I can do for you today?’

I said ‘Yes, you could get a new system that isn’t a 30 year cobbled together nightmare, and you could give me an easy to use app like you give your consumers’.

I said ‘You don’t have to answer that’.

She didn’t. She sent me a feedback link. It asked whether I would recommend RBS Bankline to anyone (there, I said it). There wasn’t an option that said ‘don’t be ridiculous, you’re having a laugh, pull the other one etc’ so I clicked ‘no, never’.

There was a box where I could write my feedback. I wrote ‘you could get a new system that isn’t a 30 year cobbled together nightmare, and you could give me an app like you give your consumers who you obviously value over your business customers’.

I could have written ‘do you not realise that your SME market segment is potentially the most profitable segment, and you should treat them with a little respect. They do not have IT departments, they want easy, they want speed, they want to get on and build their business, thus creating a bigger customer for you’.

But I didn’t. I was exhausted, lying broken across the desk, knowing that we were trapped because no other bank understands that the SME market is important either, and knowing that we have been trying to change banks for over a year. Without success.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .


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  1. Michah says:

    If it weren’t for regulators protecting these dinosaurian reptiles… hence we have “Disruptive” and not “Progressive” change in the fintech space.

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