Thursday, February 15, 2007

Adventures in Customer Service

Wow... I usually don't do this, but I feel like I have to share a great experience I had.

I've had an account with DuPage Credit Union for... hm, probably around a decade now. They've handled all my checking, and until I switched to ING they did all my savings as well. Keep in mind that I haven't actually lived near a branch location for about seven years. I've happily stuck with them, partially due to inertia, and also just because I really like the bank. They don't have annoying fees, everything is really transparent and open, and they've had a simple-but-effective online interface for quite some time. My only complaint is their absurdly low interest rate on savings account, but I'll gladly accept the package.

Anyways. Like I said, I live far away from DuPage County, but that hasn't been a big problem. I do direct deposit with them, and on the rare cases when I need to cash a check, I'll just mail it in to them or wait until the next time I'm visiting home. I do almost all my bill payment and stuff online, so it doesn't really matter where they're physically located.

I had hopped online this morning to see if my latest transfer from DPCU to the Apple Bank (my new savings account home - 5%+ interest!) had gone through. I saw it had, and was just about to close the window when I noticed something wrong. I have an automatic payment plan for my car loan, and this month it had been deducted twice from my account. Argh!

People who know me will understand that this instantly clouded my day. Not only do I like things to go smoothly, but I get flustered when I need to deal with people in order to fix things. I'll gladly spend an hour poking around a website to figure out how to do something rather than spend a few minutes on the phone talking with someone. I'm not entirely sure why this is, and am sure it's a sign of some neurosis, but it has the effect of being self-perpetuating; the less I do it, the harder it gets to do.

Anyways, it was pretty clear in this case that I would need to once again pick up the phone to solve this (or let it slide and be out a few hundred bucks - not in the mood for that after finding out how much I owe the IRS this year). So I sort of groaned, went to lunch, came back, and called.

The actual procedure was blissfully painless. I had a single automated prompt before reaching a service representative, explained to him what the problem was, was put on hold for all of a minute or two, then he came back on the line and explained what the problem had been, and told me that it would be fixed within minutes.

So all that was wonderful. Looking back, I can identify a couple of things that helped this go especially right:
  1. Quick response time. If people are kept on hold for a long time before they ever speak to someone, the whole transaction starts off on the wrong foot.
  2. Friendly contact. The person I spoke with was pleasant. Even if it's a short contact, the attitude of the person on the other side of the line has a huge impact on my overall impression of the experience.
  3. Good use of technology. It was obvious that the representative had access to all my account information; almost as soon as I explained what I was seeing, he knew what I was talking about. This helps maintain the impression that the organization is competent and on top of things.
  4. Respectful and knowledgeable. I really appreciate that they didn't just say "We fixed it," but took the time to explain what had happened. It gives me a sense of closure and, once again, shows that they understand what's happening in their organization.
  5. Able to fix the problem. Ultimately, this is what I want to get out of the transaction, and they passed with flying colors.

As usual, this incident got me thinking about things. While DPCU isn't geographically local to me, they are local to a particular area, which can yield huge benefits to them and their customers. All their representatives and records are in the same place as their management and facilities; because of this, they are integrated in a way that's still very hard to do with far-flung operations. On my call, the representative was able to walk over and talk with a financial person who had the knowledge and authority to recognize the problem and order the fix. Compare that with a massive call center; the problem still could have been resolved, but would have required multiple escalations and transfers to get to the point where the person on the other end of the line could actually solve my problem. It's sort of ironic, but I think that I got much better service using a small bank chain half a continent away than I would have using (not to pick on them) Bank of America, who is just down the street from me... and just down the street from everyone else in the country, too.

Anyways. Kudos to DuPage Credit Union for doing a great job! I wish there were more organizations like them out there.


  1. Mr. King,
    I'm sorry, but I don't see any of your account numbers in this post. Perhaps you could remedy that the next time you write?


    your dad

  2. I'm sorry, I only share my account numbers with reputable Nigerian businessmen who wish to share fabulous wealth with me. ("Of course my bank balance is negative, whose isn't? That's why I need your 20% money laundering commission.")