Well it turns out they didn't. What follows in italics is my original post and then an explanation of what happened after. While this incident concerned Barclays Bank it could quite have been any bank anywhere I feel, or indeed any large organisation that is under pressure to cut costs and deliver results to make shareholders happy.
(I normally wouldn't use this blog as a forum to air personal grievances but feel that I have run out of other options and still have the need to make some sort of noise).
30 Years ago my mother used to frequently travel from Australia to the UK. She opened a UK bank account with Barclays bank to use to pay an annual car registration fee. There is still a small amount of money (less than 500 pounds in this account).
Next year my mother will be 90. She is no longer able to travel to the UK so she wants to close her account and get her money back.
There are no branches of Barclays in her home country (Australia).
Barclays have outsourced all their customer service dealings. If you do not have access to a branch, you need to call an offshore call centre that is only equipped to give generic advice and cannot action individual cases.
My mother has written to Barclays to ask them to close the account.
All she gets back is a standard letter “we cannot comply with your request” because – then there is a box ticked that says “cannot verify signature”. The letter goes on to say that she can resubmit the request and provide more identification (but doesn't elaborate on what identification is suitable).
Call centre staff are evasive when asked what identification is required.
My mother has written again enclosing all her identification (lots of it) witnessed by a Justice of the Peace and sends it over.
Same standard letter is sent out by Barclays with the same box ticked. No reference numbers, no case officer, no number to call except the offshore call centre.
My mother is in ill health and as a 90 year old cannot replicate the same signature that she had as a 60 year old.
So in short she has written to the bank in good faith asking them to close the account, citing all their required reference numbers (and believe me there are lots of them). She has provided certified copies of what we would call A Class identification documents in Australia.
All that she asked was that the account be closed and a cheque for a comparatively small sum to be issued to the last known service of notice address that the bank has (which has been the same for the past 30 years). Its not like she has asked for a large amount of money to be sent to downtown Nigeria.
Barclays offer a service on their website where you can lodge a complaint. They claim to respond within two days and finalise most cases within seven. I have complained (as have others) on my mothers' behalf. I have received no acknowledgement of the complaint after waiting 10 days.
My mother is happy to provide whatever information Barclays needs, but the bank seems unwilling to communicate. In the meantime this issue has been adversely affecting her health and indirectly mine because I have to keep hearing about this every day.
Please share this post and if you use Twitter include the handles @Barclays and @BarclaysOnline
UPDATE 15/11/13 Barclays have responded to my tweet and have asked for more information.
An email address was given to me to write to.
Ten days later, and no response. So I tweeted again asking how long before I can get some indication as to what is going on. Within hours I get an answering tweet saying that they never received the email. So I send a copy that I had the foresight to keep to the same email address (which was recorded in my email client diary).
This time it gets through.
About 24 hours later I receive an apologetic phone call from England (I presume). The caller identifies himself my name (Richard - full name given) and after a quick ID verification procedure asks that I do scans of the ID and send them through.
Takes me a week to get these from my mother, another 5 hours to get the scanner up and running but I get it done. Within hours Richard has replied, the account has been closed and the money sent over. About 24 hours later, the money gets here in Australia. So this is a good result. My mother is temporarily happy until the next episode.
All in all I would have to say that I was happy with service and empathy I got from Barclays,. once I got to talk to somebody that is, which is not an easy thing to do. However, as I said at the beginning of the article, this is quite common, could have been any bank or telco, anywhere.
I can't help but feel that in the long run it is more beneficial for a big corporation like this to talk to and listen to their clients rather go for quick client service solutions that appear to save money that while they look attractive, end up costing them in the long term.
Some consultant comes along, shows the people who make policy that they can save money by opting for these off the shelf ready made customer service solutions.
And its people like Richard and his friends that have to carry the can.