August 24, 2007 5:42 AM PDT

Banks struggle with online queries

Banks struggle with online queries
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Bank sites are failing to answer even routine questions satisfactorily, according to a new survey by a customer service software company.

Banks have poured millions of dollars into their Web sites, Transversal said, but it may still be quicker for customers to pick up the phone to find out basic information.

Web sites of banks could provide answers for only half of routine questions asked online, with the majority offering just static FAQ pages.

Its survey of sites also noted that 30 percent of bank Web sites struggled to answer more than two out of 10 product or service questions.

Nearly a third of banks don't offer the option of e-mailing questions, it found. For those that did, the average reply time was 30 hours for a response. After the wait, only three out of 10 banks answered the question satisfactorily, so customers would then still need to phone the bank for more information.

By contrast, the company said, bank call-center response times have improved "dramatically," with 60 percent of calls answered within three minutes and the shortest wait times being just a few seconds.

U.K.-based Transversal said that customers are being pushed toward using the telephone, irrespective of their preferences, and that this reflects a failure by many banks to adopt a "cohesive online customer interaction strategy."

Steve Ranger of reported from London.

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This story is on point
I've dealt with online offerings from BofA, WaMu, Wells, US Bank, and Citi. They all give you the exact same thing, which is great to do the simplest of tasks. What they all fail in is

- The ability to dispute transactions online. I should be able to just go to a dispute section, be shown a list of transactions for a given period, and check boxes of what I want to dispute. Then be presented with a form to explain why. None of them offer this (I haven't dug into US Bank so I don't know for a fact that they don't.)

- Limited online application capabilities. Wells Fargo lets you apply for their Secured card through the web, but you can't transfer any money to it for the purposes of increasing your credit line. You're forced to call them to do that. Ridiculous. Citibank doesn't let you apply for the secured card online at all, neither does US Bank.

- Poorly designed credit applications. Wells' online system will decline you for accounts. If you call, you'll get approved. This is because the website has different, invalid credit criteria that a rep has to override. This includes savings accounts.

- Not answering REAL "frequently asked questions" on the site. Customers want to know things such as, "what rates might I be eligible for?" and "do you run a credit check for this?" and "how long will it take to receive my money?". They don't answer the questions that customers would really ask.

- Canned responses on email inquiries.

- Web doesn't tie back to telephone system. Wells is notorious for this; the phone system will claim you have $100 available for spending, the web will show $200, because the web doesn't update at the same time. If you're a customer who relies on web, you'll overdraft yourself - and Wells will let you do it.
Posted by ReVeLaTeD (755 comments )
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