respecting personal space

Above you see the bank machine in the Giant on Boot Road in West Chester. It’s the Giant that locals say is in the Bermuda Triangle  of retirement homes (Hershey’s Mill, Bellingham, Wellington).

Anyway, it’s an interior bank machine next to a micro branch of PNC Bank. Sometimes it’s busy and when it’s busy you either wait your turn or come back later.

Today I was depositing a check at the bank machine, and I was literally endorsing the check over to the bank so I could pop it into the machine, when all of a sudden I felt someone right upon me and behind me.  That is a slightly disconcerting feeling let alone taking into consideration the fact I was standing at a bank machine with my wallet out.

So this older gent – I would say the late 60s early 70s – is literally right on top of me. Startled I turned and looked at him.  He was close enough that I could smell his breath.

“I’m in a hurry. You don’t mind if I jump ahead while you are doing that do you?” He says.

I think my mouth must’ve hung open first and I paused before I answered, and I looked at him and I said “Why yes , I do mind.”

He then says “Well  calm down sweetheart!”

Alrighty. I just turned my back to him and kept my mouth clamped firmly shot. I was honestly afraid of what might come out if I responded.

Let’s start with the fact that I’m not his sweetheart, and he’s completely ignorant.

The second thing is I patiently wait my turn whenever someone’s ahead of me at the bank machine, it’s what you do. And I don’t stand on top of them, I give them space and privacy because that’s what you’re supposed to do , it’s a banking transaction.

I don’t know what it is about people at interior location bank machines. But they seem to think normal rules don’t apply.

I think there should be signs at these interior machines like they have for pharmacy lines where they ask people to keep it respectful distance between the current customer and themselves.  

I have run into this problem before at this particular bank machine.  Last time it was a huffy and shouting woman who told me she was important and she was in a hurry and I should move over for her. Literally.

(You will note as to not embarrass this man’s family I did not post a picture of him. Just the bank machine so you could see the space.)

I sometimes wonder where basic manners have gone. And why people can’t respect the personal space of others when they expect you to respect their’s. 

The final thought is this had that man done that at a bank machine in Center City Philadelphia, I probably would have stepped on his foot and elbowed him in the stomach and asked questions later because I would’ve been even more concerned I was about to be mugged or something.

There is no accounting for rude behavior I suppose. At any age. if I had been feeling witty I probably would’ve turned him and said “Oh grandpa please!”

pnc bank is so disliked web pages are devoted to them and not in a good way.

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I never knew until today that there were entire websites devoted to hating and bashing PNC Bank. There are things like PNC Sucks , a whole slew of complaints on Consumer Affairs and RipOff Report.

I also realized today that I am still waiting for the “retail escalation specialist” Tracy St. Clair from PNC Bank to return a phone call.

I had contacted the bank at the end of December 2014 after a couple of frustrating occurrences. Actually I had contacted them about one of the other occurrences prior to this date.

First there was the joy of walking into a PNC Bank branch to open a business checking account. Only to be told as an existing customer check in hand that I had to come back on another day. If they advertise that they are full-service how come they are not a full-service bank? That account went elsewhere and the commercial banking twerp I was put on the phone with that day spend the next couple of days arguing with me via e-mail and then checking out my LinkedIn profile. Very professional.

Then shortly after Christmas before the end of the year I paid off my credit card with them. It wasn’t a huge balance, but I paid it off in it’s entirety. I paid it off via their online banking system that told me the exact amount I needed to pay to pay it off that moment in time and have it be paid off. Only I came back to check the account and discovered an obnoxious after the fact finance charge. I understand the theory of debt and interest rates, but when a bank tells you via its own system what you need to completely pay a balance off right then and there that should be the end of it.

I tried calling PNC on December 31, 2014. After being stuck on the phone for about 40 minutes at two different times in the day without speaking to a real person, I went and contacted them via social media. I was in short assured I was valued as a customer and sure enough the first week of January 2015 I received a letter dated December 31, 2014 from Tracy St. Clair retail escalation specialist. She provided a toll-free number of 877–631–8998 and an extension. I called her, and I’m still waiting for the return phone call and in between the first week in January and now I’ve contacted PNC for their social media customer service again and they assured me almost exactly a month ago that Ms. St. Clair would be calling me.

For me it is the principle of the thing. Don’t advertise that you are customer friendly and small depositor friendly when you really don’t give a crap about your customers on a retail level.

I don’t think PNC consistently makes an effort towards customers any longer unless you are a multimillionaire captain of industry.

This of course makes me sad because I have had a PNC Bank account since my college years. But I want to financial institution that is with you through thick and thin and you don’t seem to have that in this country much at all. I know PNC and the casual disregard of customers is not an unusual occurrence.

If you have any complaints about PNC or any other bank feel free to post a comment.

Thanks stopping by.

corporate america and the lost art of customer service

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So while breaking news out of Washington the other day was Pat Toomey is now in charge of the candy drawer in the United States Senate, life goes on. My only comment on Senator Toomey is I hope he will be paying for candy out of his own pocket and is not expensing it to United States taxpayers. He was already sending out junk mail news updates about it this morning, and somehow I doubt he paid for that personally, right? Fair is fair, he wants to live his conservative values, he should be paying for the candy.

Meanwhile, let’s focus on what we, as every day people “pay for”. I would like to particularly zoom in on customer service. Now there’s a loaded topic, right?

Customer service. I think it is a lost art form. 2015/01/img_2768.gif

Let’s begin with Pennsylvania based banking giant, PNC Bank. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, they used to offer terrific service. Today, I’ve discovered not so much once you get past a friendly local teller and lots and lots of fees and service charges…..but not customer service one would expect. It seems like they want your money, but they don’t really care about the customer.

In November, I walked into a local PNC branch during their posted business hours to open another account. I was told I couldn’t open it that day, but I would have to make an appointment to come back another day.

HUH?????

Yes it sounds like the opening lines to a very bad standup comedy routine but it was true. A woman walked into a bank to open an account check in hand and was told to come back another time. Yup, it happened.

But no worries, the gentleman I spoke to on the phone from the branch when they told me as an existing customer with check in hand it was not possible to open a new bank account in a bank branch during business hours has been having a swell time checking out my LinkedIn profile. (Yes dear, peek a boo, I can see your profile too!)

I wrote to PNC Bank about this, and basically, they don’t care. They sent me a brief note in response to my feedback and said they would notify the branch and regional managers. Can you hear the crickets chirping?

My better half and a lot of people I know asked me why I still deal with PNC. Having been an account holder there in good standing for so many years (errr decades actually) , it’s probably habit as much as anything else. After my year-end negative experiences with PNC Bank, I’m thinking a New Year’s resolution might be to shop for a new bank. I opened the new account PNC couldn’t be bothered opening that day at Citizens Bank. So far they have been amazing as far as service. But this wasn’t my only customer service issue with PNC before the end of 2014.

2015/01/img_2764.gifAt the end of December, I paid off a credit card balance in full. I don’t like carrying balances, so I chose from their menu the painful option of pay the full balance off. It wasn’t the largest balance on the face of the earth, but I honored my obligation and paid it off. The credit card was with PNC.

A few days later, even though I paid off the balance in full, they added on one last finance charge. So instead of pulling up my account and finding a zero balance, what I found was what amounts to a nuisance charge. One would think with computer software being what it was that if you choose the option of paying off your entire balance that they would include all charges right?

It was just a few dollars, but at this point I have decided it is the principle of the thing. So I decided to contact customer service. I could not contact customer service on this topic from my account online and conveniently send a message that way, I had to physically call them. That happened to be New Year’s Eve day. I sat on hold for 40 minutes two different times without getting through. That’s 80 Minutes total of the inanity of hold music and the occasional syrupy voice saying how valued you are as a customer without reaching a real person.

My time is worth something I think, so I gave up and contacted them through their social media customer service. On Monday, as in this most recent Monday, January 5th, I received a form letter dated December 31 from a retail escalation specialist at PNC Bank telling me they were unable to reach me by telephone. The letter wasn’t even on letterhead, and my contact information is always updated. I spent many years working in the financial services industry, I know how important that is.

I called the woman Monday who was listed in the letter and left a message with my phone number. I will admit it wasn’t the most pleasant message because I’m pretty hot about this at this point. But it’s Friday, and no one has been able to return a phone call, and that is even after I contacted them again this morning asking why their escalations specialist hadn’t contacted me yet even though I responded promptly to the form letter not on letterhead. How is that customer service? But they thanked me for following up…..

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Of course because I contacted back their social media customer service and told them I hadn’t heard from anyone and that I was going to blog about it, I expect now the phone will ring eventually. I have come to the conclusion that as PNC has grown, customers aren’t really valued any longer unless they are giant mega millions depositors. That’s sad.

But moving along let’s talk about another Pennsylvania corporate giant, Comcast. Comcast is based in Philadelphia. If you live in the city of Philadelphia depending on where you live even in Center City you have very little in the way of choice for cable. Where my mother lives it’s Comcast or Comcast.

So my mother is a senior citizen, she wasn’t weaned on computers or fancy cable and digital television equipment. But she’s not an idiot. She’s been calling Comcast for a couple months at this point with problems with her service. Service she continues to pay for even though she isn’t getting all of the service she is paying for which includes basic customer service.

I wish I could switch her to Verizon FiOs but she’s like prisoner of Zenda because they don’t offer it where she lives. She has lost hours and days off for life waiting for Comcast to come and fix the problem. She is incredibly frustrated by the fact that they outsource their customer service offshore to foreign countries at this point. She said she would have no problem speaking with someone from any country if she could simply understand them, and they her.
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My mother is very clear spoken as well as well spoken, and there’s nothing wrong with her hearing. But when you call Comcast customer service and you go to one of their call centers offshore, the accents are pretty heavy, and they also don’t get apparently a lot of the nuances of every day colloquial American English. And they seem unable to deviate from an inane script for the most part, and frustrate her by not addressing the questions she’s asking.

In the good old days of the not-too-distant past, you used to be able to call Comcast and get call centers in Delaware or Northeast Philadelphia, if not other areas of the United States.

So in addition to the frustration of my mother dealing with Comcast offshore “customer service”, there is the frustration of they are now worse than Time Warner apparently in timeliness of keeping appointments. My mother has been blown off completely for some appointments, and kept waiting hours after the “appointment window” without a phone call on others. And let’s discuss the technicians.

They arrive, and no one seems to know what to do. It’s always someone else’s responsibility to fix it I guess for lack of a better description. Finally they decided that they would have to rerun part of the wiring in her home that they had run in the first place, and not too many years ago. So my mother said okay fine, just have to put the carpet back the way it is supposed to be. Apparently that was a big huge to do and in the end what happened is some technician stapled my mother’s expensive drapes to the floor when they stapled the cabling all around the apartment again. She takes pride in her home, personally I would have been apoplectic when I discovered my curtains stapled to the floor. What kind of slob does that kind of work anyway?

I guess I don’t understand how they could be that sloppy and if the cable was originally run under carpets and such so as not to be obtrusive or a trip hazard or visually ugly why they couldn’t do that again? I get that they don’t want to do extra work, no one does, but if they had installed it in a certain way using their Comcast technicians in the first place, why couldn’t they just put it back that way??

Comcast has a lot of expensive real estate around the greater Philadelphia area, including their monster buildings in the city of Philadelphia. But what they have sacrificed as they have become giants is customer service.

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I’m beginning to think in corporate America, customer service is a lost art because so many companies don’t want to really offer actual customer service. It almost seems as if they feel customer service is counterintuitive to their best practices and bottom lines, as some of these giant corporations have so many more people that they should be able to service so many more people. But they don’t. You spent forever on hold losing your mind to that hold music and a syrupy automated voice thanking you for your patience as you mentally throw darts at a dart board trying not to scream. If you do tough it out and get an actual “customer service representative”, you might get someone who will listen to you but in the end will they actually do anything that is “customer service”?

It used to be American-made and American corporate customer service meant something. But today everything is outsourced or automated in addition to the customer service shortfalls. So when you call for the most American of companies, like American Express for example, you don’t know where your call center is, and that is if you can stand going through all of the call menus, the prompts, the autolady computer voices, and so on.

I remember once years ago having to call American Express on behalf of my then boss who was traveling in Europe. I got a call center in India, and I couldn’t understand them and they couldn’t understand me.

A recent call to my health insurance company Aetna, landed me in a call center in the Philippines. The customer service rep I got on the phone was incredibly pleasant, but she totally didn’t understand what I was trying to do. All I was trying to do was find out where my ID cards were and to verify my binding premium on my new policy was correctly credited.

The only thing this girl got out of our conversation (and was somewhat unable to process or think outside of her script) was she kept trying to sign me up for automatic debiting every month. As a matter fact I had to call back and say I want to be transferred to a United States on-shore call center to make sure I wasn’t signed up for things I didn’t request. And I had been signed up for the automatic debiting I did not want. In this case the language barrier was incredibly frustrating, but there was a true attempt at customer service.

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When I get a good customer service person on the phone these days, I am so complementary I’m sure they think I must’ve lost my mind. But, it is so seldom you actually get really good customer service any longer on the phone that I feel compelled to praise those who actually take the time to do their customer service jobs.

And I tire of the outsourcing, it’s all about the corporate dollar bottom line and what does it do besides line the pockets of executives of that company with a little extra jingle? What does it actually do for the customer who is frustrated by language barriers and hold times?

What about the person to person customer service in bank branches or with your cable service guy comes to fix a problem? Where has it gone? Why has it disappeared? Why is it inconsistent? I spent years in the financial services industry and even when a customer was driving me crazy I didn’t want them to get off the phone feeling less than 100% satisfied. So basically, I treated them the way I wish to be treated.

To me, good customer service should be part of the work ethic. I don’t think you can just do the job, I think you need to do it well. And if people are paying for customer service no matter how small or how large a customer they are, how old, how ordinary, how important, it shouldn’t matter. The customer is a customer is a customer.

This is why I like supporting small businesses so much. Of course, there are exceptions to that rule too. A local Chester County exception would be Athena Pizza in West Chester.

When they are “on”, their food and customer service is excellent, but their largest downfall is their inconsistency. And when you have a problem with an order, it all depends which member of the family owned business you get on the phone. There is literally the nice brother and the horrible brother. When you get the horrible brother, you understand how comedian Jerry Seinfeld got inspiration for one of his most famous characters the soup Nazi.

For 2015 it would be really nice if corporate America, or any business actually practiced what they preached as far as customer service goes. It doesn’t take much to be nice and helpful to customer. Not every customer is going to get the precise resolution they seek, but at the end of the day it’s all about how you treat the customer. And sometimes it would be nice if the company actually admit it when the customer is actually right. And yes the flipside of this argument is we is customers should try to be nice to the companies and their employees.

However if you want corporate customer service anywhere to pay attention to you these days you have to take your complaint to social media it seems. It’s like dog shaming for business. Why can’t the simple phone call take care of things anymore?

One final note is a couple of places where customer service is awesome on a local level is the Wegman’s in Malvern and Kimberton Whole Foods in Malvern. Wegmans is a big chain and Kimberton Whole Foods is a small chain, but somehow they managed not to forget the core values of customer service. Also the Verizon Wireless independent non corporate store in Frazer next to the Giant in the Lincoln Court Shopping Center should be mentioned as they are terrific.

Thanks for stopping by today.

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do banks actually offer good old fashioned customer service any longer?

PNC PNC Bank this post is for you.

I am super cranky this morning.  I have come to the realization that perhaps non-millionaire (i.e. average) customers are not valued by America’s banks after all, which makes you understand why some people keep their money in their proverbial mattresses.

hippiesSo over the Memorial Day Weekend I went out to Milkhouse Antiques, which just had a name change and ownership change to Antiques at Silver Bell Farms  (and yes that is confusing right now because there are TWO Facebook Pages – the former Milkhouse page and the newer Good Ol’ Days- Antiques at Silver Bell Farm).  Anyway, I purchased a couple of things for my garden including this crazy funny sign that says “Hippies Use Side Door” (and not to grouse, but I discovered I could have purchased online for significantly less but am happy I was able to patronize a local business).

When I went to check out and to pay for my items, inadvertently another item was added to my bill so they had to void my original sale and re-ring my items.  They gave me all the receipts and I did not think another thing about it.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday I went to check my bank account to discover that the correct charge and the erroneous charge were still on my account. I called up the store and the new owner was super nice to me but said my bank needed to remove the incorrect charge.

So this morning I checked my account again and it was still there so I decided to call up PNC Bank.  I spent a frustrating 30 minutes trying to navigate the new auto attendant before I could reach a LIVE customer service person.  When I did they were perfectly pleasant but told me basically I was S.O.L. until it magically falls off (which after in essence five business days it has not) and there was nothing that PNC could do for me.

Basically my only choice is to  have this small business write and fax a letter to PNC on their letterhead asking for charge to be released or removed.  Her justification was “they placed it there” , meaning the small business.

Yeah and nevermind the fact they control the account and I spent over two decades working in bank and brokerage and know that exceptions can be made and accounts adjusted on the end of the bank.

Yeah and nevermind they have no idea how this can disrupt the day of a small business which would then in turn make that business not value me as a customer.

So I have sent all of this along to the small business in the hopes that maybe their bank can talk to my bank.

What I want to know is what happened to customer service?  I know I am not a huge customer but I have been a long-term customer.

Sign me frustrated.

So what kind of customer service do you get at your bank?

 

hedges might make good neighbors, but can be hard on drivers

whitelands chiroA couple of weeks ago I called up East Whiteland Township and spoke with the Township Manager Terry Woodman. I guess people around here don’t just call up Township Managers because Manager Woodman seemed a little surprised to get a call from a random citizen, but I am new enough to the area that I do not know who handles what.

I had called East Whiteland about Whitelands Chiropractic on the corner of Church Road and Lancaster Avenue in Frazer.   This is the business immediately next to PNC Bank in Frazer.  pnc

The reason I called is because it is very hard making a left hand turn into PNC bank off of the eastbound side of Lancaster Avenue due to the people who take the right turn on red light out of Church/Markley School Road.  Even though you sit up higher than they do waiting to turn into PNC Bank’s parking lot, it is quite difficult to see the cars waiting to turn right and head west on Lancaster from Church/Markley School Road (see photo at top as an example.)

The flip side is having been a person waiting to turn right (Westbound) onto Lancaster from Church and Markley School Road, it is also often difficult to see people waiting to turn into PNC.4

A BIG part of the reason it is hard to see are the hedges in my humble opinion.  I don’t see why it should be so hard to TRIM them properly.  That is what I asked East Whiteland about a couple of weeks ago. The hedges form an upside down and backward L for lack of a better description.  The other thing I wondered is if the right turn was marked “No right turn on red” or could be considered for such a thing?

Anyway, this isn’t East Whiteland’s fault, but it is something that I noted again today needed to be addressed.

I have no way of knowing if Whitelands Chiropractic owns the property or has a landlord responsible for the hedges but I thought perhaps if someone SAW what I was talking about they could better understand the need to at a minimum trim the hedges back.

another view

 

 

do you think banks care about customers? PNC doesn’t. not really.

Customer service in the financial services industry is paramount.  Not so many years ago, I actually received national corporate honors on more than one occasion for my attention to detail and for going above and beyond for customers and finding solutions.

I here to find out from my readers today what banks you think provide excellent customer service and which banks should be skipped.

I am also  here to tell you I think PNC is one of those banks which should be skipped. Unless of course they can correct their inconsistency from branch to branch in customer service.

Without going into details, I have been trying to help someone navigate a banking issue at PNC.  It has involved multiple phone calls, multiple e-mails, and research on my part.

Last week I plopped something on a PNC Facebook page and a very nice woman named Jessica called me back.  She found me the name and number of someone to speak with at the branch giving an older person I know the run-around.

The name I was given was Steve Curry.  So I called this Steve Curry late last week after jessica gave me his name and number and told me his work hours so I could reach him and not experience further frustration.  Amazingly enough when I called there was a pause and you could imagine in the background whomever answered the phone was having an “oh crap, she actually called us” moment.  So although it was well beyond the imagination of corporate lunch hours, this Steve was “out of the office….errr getting lunch.” (Translated: he/they did not want to deal with me.)

So then a while later this guy calls me back from the same branch.  Was all sugar and spice and big banking words until I did not accept his answer as the oracle from above.  (When you spend enough time in financial services you know that often there is something more that can be done, a one time exception, a move that is pure discretion on the part of the branch manager.)

Dude’s name this time was Don Singh.  And well, I asked Banker Charming (do you sense heavy sarcasm? I found him incredibly rude after he was finished giving me the overly syrupy condescending little woman treatment) who was above him in the food chain because he did not get where I was going and I needed to discuss this with someone who actually knew what I was speaking about, he told me TFB in essence he was king of his branch and I could call Pittsburgh. His supervisor was not located in his branch.   But he did not offer me a number.  That’s o.k., I am resourceful that way, I found the number to the Chairman’s Office in Pittsburgh, PA and called.

Next a very nice lady in Pittsburgh transferred me to “Dan” in customer service.  Dan was very polite and professional and said he would have a regional manager above Banker Charming call me on Monday.

It’s now Tuesday.  No call.  No e-mail.

In the interim, I think I found as a now non-financial services industry professional a solution to this problem.  Something that this bank should help their  client with.  Did I mention the client is a senior citizen? Customer service? Well, it’s their job after all  and PNC collects enough fees and what not off of customers that these people should not only be more respectful in some of these branches (the offending branch here is in Philadelphia, PA at 1511 Walnut Street, Philadelphia and I will note I found a website specifically reviewing PNC Bank and 92 reviews give this institution 2.5 out of 5 stars so I must be onto something). I found reviews that lined up nicely with what I experienced at this Walnut Street branch.  And while the other people were pleasant enough to me and this older person I am attempting to assist, there is also the issue with the misinformation that was also provided to this customer.

Now because I have not heard back from anyone, I am swiftly reaching the conclusion that PNC does NOT in fact really care about its customers, especially small deposit ones.  It used to be that bankers tried to accommodate customers, and bank managers actually did their jobs and extended themselves towards solutions – let us not forget bank branch managers have a fair amount of discretion that they can choose to use.

Have any of you out there had any negative PNC issues you would like to share?  Any horror stories with any other banks?  If you were going to switch banks, what bank would you choose today?

I also discovered PNC including this branch was the subject of a protest this past November.

The bottom line here is customer service:  what banks actually offer consistent, honest to goodness customer service?  PNC has had in my experience very good telephone based customer service reps.  But as for the rest of it, it depends on the branch as it is all inconsistent.  Bank branch managers are not God and without deposit accounts they would have no salary and benefits.

In banking is good customer service just a thing of the past?  What do you think? And while you are at it, tell me what banks in Chester County you think are worth it and where they are located.