3 Ways Banks Encourage Their Staff to Screw With You

Ryan Ong



A bank’s customer service is usually the worst part of the organisation. If a bank were a cow, customer service would be the bit that goes into a cheap sausage when you butcher it.  We found out why:


Problem #1: There’s Little Incentive to Give You In-Depth Service

If you put work-life balance on a scale, a bank’s customer service providers would rank pretty low. My guess is somewhere between “Chinese coal miner” and “North Korean prison slave”.

You know those phone operators on the bank’s 24 hour line? There’s a reason they sound like lifeless meat puppets animated by black magic.

Most banks tie the operators’ key performance indicators (KPI) to how many calls they handle during their shift. More calls, fewer savage beatings bigger bonus. And given the low base pay, the bonus probably means the difference between a fresh dinner and reheating three day old pizza.

That also means you’re screwed if your call involves something complicated. Someone in Argentina using your credit card? Want to leave the structured deposit you naively bought into? Good luck.  Prepare to be endless redirected, or put on hold from now till the sun burns out.

The operator is off to handle easier calls and meet his quota / KPI, while you wait and grow old.

The counter staff at the bank aren’t much better. Time spent dealing with your problem is time not spent selling; and they’d rather be pressure-hosing financial products down someone’s throat than fixing your issue.

Speaking of which…


Problem #2: There’s a LOT of Incentive to Sell You what You Don’t Need

Almost everyone at a bank counter is there to sell you something. If they could they’d get the janitor to sing their home loan advantages while he mops.  There’s also a commission / performance bonus for pushing the bank’s products.

So if you approach a bank’s advisors and ask a question like “Where’s a good place to invest my money?” then buddy, you’re asking for it. You’re not about to get advice – you’re about to get a sales pitch.

And the staff aren’t above pushing products that have little or no benefit to you. Watch for:

  • High interest savings accounts, which become meaningless because you have to spend a certain amount on retail every month to get that interest rate.
  • Structured deposits that offer high interest rates. They’ll go on about capital protection; but what if they call the deposit on the fifth year, when you’re supposed to park your money there for six?
  • Advice to refinance your home loan with them, for low rates that last two years before becoming worse than your current package

Ironically, it’s not a good idea not to approach the bank for financial advice. Talk to an independent financial advisor instead.


Problem #3: They Make You Jump Through Hoops for Their Own Safety

Banks define bureaucracy. When you deal with millions of dollars, day-in and day-out, you need insane levels of checks. In a bank, a request for one paperclip will rapidly turn into a three-ring binder of requisition forms. Now, combine that with the complexity of their products.

Say a banker gives you one wrong number, while explaining a fixed deposit. Or calculates your loan approval amount wrong, when you’re about to buy a house. A few months later, that’s going to result in a financial meltdown that sees you filing lawsuits up the wazoo.

This means the bank staff will be intent on covering their own asses. Whether they’re selling you something or responding to your query, it’s in their interest to make the process as detailed and scrutinized as possible. They’ll seek confirmation from a dozen different sources, and make you sign forms till Pilot pens gives you a bulk discount.

That’s the reason you don’t ever seem to get a call “tomorrow”, like the phone operator promised. And its why you’ll be filling in the same form for the Nth time, just to get your account closed.

Do you enjoy your bank’s customer service? Lie and tell us yes, or give us your actual opinion below!

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.