Saturday, March 12, 2011

Smack into the wall

Back in Dubai and I inevitably smashed straight into the wall of frustration.

Sorry but I need to get it off my chest. After all, what's a blog for if it isn't to let off steam. (Feel free to leave at this point before I start).

The first and worst frustration is the bank. No surprise there then for anyone living in the UAE.

Two days of incompetence, of stupidity, of false information, of bank-built barriers to prevent the customer doing the simplest thing. I swear they do it deliberately to make us go away, to stop us asking them for anything.

And I'm still only at the begining of trying to do one very simple thing with them.

Here's the story so far:

I arrived back in Dubai to find a new credit card and new Debit/ATM card waiting for me.

With the Debit/ATM card is a sealed envelope containing a PIN. On the outside it says "Debit/ATM Card PIN."

Inside it says "...PIN to access Debit Card/ATM services..."

Next to the PIN it says "...PIN for Debit Card/ATM Services."

I assumed that means the PIN relates to the Debit/ATM card.

Foolish of me of course, that's apparently not what it means at all.

It tells me to change the PIN, "which can only be done at all HSBC ATM's in the UAE."

There's a sticker on the card itself that tells me to call an 800 number "to select your PIN."  Not a good sign, starting with a contradiction. Only at an ATM...or alternatively by phoning.

I'll be passing an HSBC ATM so I decide to do it there.

Following the prompts I put my Debit/ATM card into the slot, then key in the PIN they've given me. Then I key in the PIN I want to change to.

As requested, I re-key in the PIN I want to change to and I re-key in the PIN they've given me. It tells me the transaction has been successful.

Then it changes its mind and tells me the transaction has failed and I should go to a counter.

I go to a counter.

The cashier tells me I'm using the wrong card, I should have put in my credit card.

I point out that all this PIN stuff came with the Debit/ATM card and that's what it says all over the envelope.

He shrugs and gets on with some important paperwork.

HSBC customer service personified.

I walk steam away, fuming.

I come back and recheck all the paperwork. No, nothing about PINs on the credit card paperwork, the PIN all relates to the Debit/ATM card.

Today I think I'll give the 800 number a try.


You're being talked to by a computer of course, so you have to wait for it to tell you what to do, key in whatever it demands before it moves on to its next demand.

What they haven't bothered to tell me in advance is that I'll need lots of information at my fingertips to be able to advance through the phone call.

How hard is that? While telling me to call the number to select my PIN they could so very easily have said "you will need the following information".

Here's how the one-way 'conversation' goes:

Please wait while we identify your contact number.

I wait.

To continue in English  press 1.

I press 1.

Please key in the last six digits of your primary bank account number or primary card number.

(Dash away to find the numbers, come back and redial. Start all over again).

Please wait while we identify your contact number.

I wait.

To continue in English press 1.

I press 1.

Please key in the last six digits of your primary bank account number or primary card number followed by the hash key.

I obey.

Please key in your full ten digit personal banking number or your full twelve digit bank account number or your full sixteen digit primary card number followed by the hash key.

Scramble for bits of paper trying to find numbers, count the digits to see if I've got the right one. Too late, the computer has lost patience with me and cancelled the call.

Redial and start again.

Please wait while we identify your contact number.

I wait.

To continue in English press 1.

I press 1. 
Please key in the last six digits of your primary bank account number or primary card number followed by the hash key.

I comply.

Please key in your full ten digit personal banking umber or your full twelve digit bank account number or your full sixteen digit primary card number followed by the hash key.

I obey.

We're sorry, the number you've entered doesn't match our records. Please try again.

I do. Very carefully. Digit by digit.

We're sorry, the number you've entered doesn't match our records.

You probably heard the phone slamming down over in Sharjah.

So HSBC wins again. I've done what they always intended me to do, give up, go away and leave them alone.

Now for something completely different, let me tell you about the customer service we enjoyed in one of our ubiquitous franchise restaurants food factories last evening.

The waiter was friendly, pleasant, doing his job to the best of his ability and let me say that I don't for one second criticise him for his lack of English. That's the fault of his employer. People employed in customer service here need to speak English because of our diverse population. But that's not something that concerns the people who employ them, they just bring in job-lots of bodies. Why would it matter if they can't actually give the service customers expect.

We'd been shopping and stopped at Noodle Factory in Dubai Marina Mall for a quick meal.

One of the dishes includes mixed peppers, which we don't like. Mrs Seabee asks the waiter to get the chef to change the peppers for a different vegetable.

Blank look.

Repeat the request worded slightly differently.

Still a blank look.

Try again, in pidgin English.

He sort of gets part of it because he carefully explains that, yes, the mixed peppers come with the chicken.

We try again. Yes we understand that but maybe the chef could replace the peppers with broccoli?

He tells us if we want extra broccoli we have to pay extra.

It's soon after my HSBC run-in and I get very close to losing my temper.

Through gritted teeth and perhaps a little louder than I would normally speak I suggest he just brings whatever he wants to bring.

We push the mixed peppers to one side and eat the meat, vegetable-less.

It's all so unnecessary. Doing the right thing, running a business competently, making it easy for customers to do business with you isn't actually very difficult.

But here there's a universal wilful insistance on doing it the wrong way, running businesses incompetently, making it hard for customers to do business with them.

And I haven't even mentioned their websites.

There, I feel a bit better now. I knew I would.


EyeOnDubai said...

Welcome back! Glad to see you haven't lost any of your perspective. And I find repeated application of amber neck oil can sometimes dull the pain...

Sarah Walton said...

I love this post. Thanks. I was a bit down about having to say goodbye to a friend at the airport, and you've just stopped my from crying like a big baby.

HSBC did some lovely things to me while trying to set up an online e-saver account. Personal banker said all could be done online. So I put in all the details, pressed the big red button, and got a message:

"there has been an error in your request. Please contact your local branch"

immediately underneath that it said:

"thankyou, your request has been successful"

So we called the private banker, and he said that we had to fill out a number of forms, which he emailed. Of course we can't just email the completed forms back - we have to go into a branch with 67 forms of identification and a letter of no objection from the queen.

Mich said...

Welcome back to Dubai! A company, restaurant, organization... is as weak as its weakest link. Unfortunately, there is no management and the person at the till, the waiter, the one at the end of the phone, not being accountable, doesn't care. I try to use my bank to a minimum and my nightmare is to one day be in such a situation. Also I only go to Reem (SZR) because I can order in English and Arabic and be understood.
Nice to have you back though :-)

Seabee said...

My friends, thanks for the welcome back it's cheered me up.

Sarah, "I haven't even mentioned their websites" I said and your experience is just part of the problem - I must post on the subject when I next need to let off some steam.

samuraisam said...

Question: Why on earth do people still use HSBC/Standard Chartered over local banks when their service is totally abysmal?

I really don't understand the advantage; ffs at Standard Chartered people stand in a queue to DEPOSIT a cheque (not cash). It's like the fking stone age.

Emirates NBD has its problems, but I can't fathom any of them being anywhere near as severe as those that people have with HSBC.

The worst part is people write about HSBC in the papers etc and never outright name the bank for the crock that it is. Congrats on having some balls and giving them what their name deserves.

If I was using HSBC I can assure you I'd post on a daily basis with posts mentioning HSBC specifically in the title so that anyone googling will find them.

Anonymous said...

HSBC...Don't even get me started! I use Private banking and Premier. According to their advertisement: "HSBC Premier is relationship banking without boundaries, designed to give our customers recognition ..." HAHAHA If they would be Pinokkio their nose couldn't get any longer. Horrible and completely incompetent. I just wish an Entrepreneur would stand up and start a no thrills, low cost bank. Just give me an account with ATM card and credit card for low costs pleaseeee. Mr Branson. I be the first customer for Virgin Banking!

Reluctant and Recluse said...

:) welcome back, we still hopefully have a few weeks of pleasant weather ahead.

Regarding customer service, well you can imagine why i choose my handle! I try to limit my interaction with local organizations and instead of banging against the wall, take a deep breath and move on. I tried swimming against the current when i first came here, i still fondly remember my error in asking a sales attendant for a 'gift receipt' in my first year!

Have heard so many bad stories about HSBC, i can only imagine people choose it because of ease of transfering funds overseas - but is that worth it? Never had a problem with Mashreq, albeit i don't expect much from them, bank account, ATM/Debit card. Though i must say that even though they are heavy on emiratisation they have good customer service and counter personnel.

What i don't understand is that a lot of these large organizations have western (or in the least western exposed/trained) people in senior and mangerial positions - they really do deserve some of the blame for not instituting proper policies, even if it may make them unpopular at first. Just coming here and cashing a paycheck is the route of a sell out.

Personally, i think people who blame the bad customer service at most local outlets - or even the downfall of 'brand dubai' or the various 'dubai incs' on locals/arabs are being disingenuous.

Hope you got your card sorted out in the end...

Dave said...

Seabee, you will enjoy the day you return to Australia (permanently). I went into HSBC in Sunnybank (Brisbane) on Thursday and had the best service ever. This is after dealing with the biggest twits on earth at HSBC in Dubai. How can one bank with the same name be so different in diffetent countries??

MM said...

When someone mentions bank problems – I giggle it must be HSBC and it turns out indeed it is.

In the last 3 years I have never had a moment where I had to go through bank related frustration. I just will never understand why you and others feel the need to bank with HSBC in-spite of issues.

You want my word of advice – switch to ADCB – amazing customer service and excellent banking. Switch now to avoid further frustration.

Get over it – there are some local banks that do better job than international banks. I've heard good about RAKBank as well.

Seabee said...

Dave, I had to change the PIN on my new card a couple of weeks ago in Terrigal. Went to the NAB machine, put in my card, keyed in the existing number, keyed in the new number, done.

Miss Stovetop said...

Ha ha, I love this. If it makes you feel any better, and they are much worse at logic than at service (bet you thought that wasn't possible). I was in advertising and they were my clients.