Bank of America Does the Right Thing


Since I was so quick to criticize in two previous posts (here and here), it’s only fair that I should report back that everything was straightened out by this morning.

BofA’s help desk called me at around 1:15 AM (I was up so not a problem for me).  I’ve managed help desks in the past and I know there are two kinds of help desks. The first is the one that we mostly encounter, some high school graduate in a tiny cubicle with a headset typing key words into a computer and then reading back whatever text seems most appropriate. The second is experience, well-trained staff who have studied and understand the products and have some degree of authority vested in them.  BofA’s help desk was the second kind.

The woman told me she’d read my blog post and understood the situation.  She told me that she would make calls and try to get some action for me.  Then she told me about SmartPass, which is BofA’s double authentication system for web transactions.  When I told her that wouldn’t work for me because they won’t send me a verification number by SMS, she told me they also have a digital dongle (like the one I have from HSBC), that it normally costs US$20, and that she would send it to me for free. And she told me that she understood the errors came down to training issues of branch staff and she would highlight this as an issue for management attention.

When I woke up this morning I had an email from the branch manager telling me they had credited the money back to my joint account even though they had not received the funds back from HSBC yet.  I have no way of knowing whether this action came about because of the branch manager or because of the initiative of the person from the help desk.  (I’m assuming it’s the latter.)  My mother redid the transfer and this time it went through smoothly and the money’s in my account.

So while I was critical of Bank of America (and justifiably so as far as I’m concerned), I also have to give them credit for having a help desk that was truly helpful.

Disaster over.  Normal life resumes.


7 thoughts on “Bank of America Does the Right Thing

  1. Richard

    Shit happens… things go wrong – people make mistakes, computer systems go wrong, circumstances aren’t covered by standard procedure.

    Obviously companies need to try to prevent shit happening, as much as reasonably possible. The interesting thing is what happens when, inevitably, something falls through, and you end up with an angry customer – do you have some point of flexibility in your system which lets someone go outside standard procedure, to do something unusual, to shortcut around something and solve the problem. It’s not necessarily special treatment, as such, just an understanding that, particularly for an established customer, it may be worth bending rules slightly to make them a happy customer and keep them as an established customer in the future. The principle is that something outside normal conditions has already happened – something unexpected – so maybe the answer is to meet it with something else which is unusual.

    And this is where HK companies – and unfortunately, local branches of international companies – tend to fall down terribly. Even when they screw up, and even when you can get them to admit they’ve screwed up, they tend to be so bound by their own policies and systems that they can’t – or won’t – do something to fix the screwup. In general, with ‘western’ companies, if you push hard enough, you’ll find someone who can overrule policy (say, “don’t return money which was sent to the wrong place until it’s been returned to us”) with sense. Local companies, not so much…

  2. HKP

    Apparently one needs to Tweet to get good customer service. I’ve found it faster to write a check and mail it than to deal with their arcane transfer procedures and inept customer service. My policy is to keep a bare minimum of $ with them until I can dump them entirely.

  3. Foxlore

    I’m glad everything seems to have worked out.

    I know I have had my fair share of headaches with HSBC over the years, but U.S. banks have proven much worse.

    I used to bank with a small Florida bank called Southeast decades ago. They were bought up by First Union, who was then bought up by Wachovia who was then bought by Wells Fargo a few years back. Each one taking over my little account. Wells Fargo started becoming problematic soon after the take over so I finally dumped them and switched to Chase simply because my main U.S. credit card is with them and it is easy do online banking with everything under one virtual roof so to speak.

    I’ve had freezes on my US ATM cards and CCs over here before when I have had to use them for minor emergencies and such. Despite the fact that I have told them I work over here (and they have told me that it has been noted on the accounts), because the accounts are registered to a permanent US address any activity over here raises a flag, meaning every so often I have to call and go through a verification process and explain the situation. To be honest though, it’s better safe than sorry, and I do appreciate that they are on top of things. It’s just annoying when you out trying to pull out cash or make a payment and it gets rejected, prompting me to have to back home to clarify things.

    When I came to Hong Kong, I tried to bank with Hang Seng, but they wouldn’t give me a credit card because at the time I did not have a job and was on a student visa. HSBC gave me one, no questions asked, and I have stuck with them as a primary bank ever since.

    I thought that if I opened an account with HSBC in South Florida (there are a couple, but they are not convenient to get to) the online banking would be super easy between a US account and my Hong Kong account. I thought (mistakenly), that hey it’s the same bank, so no problem right? But in fact it is no easier than with any other bank. In fact US HSBC is almost like an entirely different entity from HK HSBC. I still have to use swift codes and the whole nine years.

    And it’s the same for Banks in China. My wife’s BOC account in Hong Kong is not recognized by BOC in China. It seems nonsensical, especially in the information age, but it is what it is.

  4. Skippy-san

    Glad you got it fixed. BOA still sucks though. They run the military’s banking system over here in Europe and every time you turn around they are nickle and diming you for fees. Folks who can understand a reasonable level of German move on the German banks relatively quickly.

  5. AC

    Looked at the other way, HSBC HK staff are probably a lot better trained in handling international transfers and the like. But if something did go wrong… I can’t imagine you would get anything close to this type of response.

    This one thing I really miss about the US. Customer service is so much better. The HK monopolies (Cathay, HSBC, PCCW) all treat it as an afterthought. Although I generally like their products more than those of their US peers, the flexibility when there is an issue is severely lacking. In HK, it is always call our other hotline (and wait on hold, again..) or fax us this form (what year is this???.. how many HK people have a land line, let alone a fax machine???). With the US companies, it is usually “let me see what I can do about that”.

    1. Spike Post author

      AC, while I mostly agree with you, I do have to say that over the years I’ve seen some improvement in HK customer service. Small improvements, but at least a little movement in the right direction.

      1. sophia

        Foxlore – it is by design that the HSBC bank in US has no information over your HSBC acct in HK. They operate as subsidiaries and are entirely different entities.. unlike US banks where they tend to operate as branches. Subtle but huge difference.

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