A New Low in Thought-Out Customer Service

I just received an interesting mail from my bank that’s, well, dumb on a couple of levels.

Concerned About Security? Click This Link

First, consider the heading above. Can you imagine anything dumber these days that saying “If you are concerned about the authenticity of this message, please click here.” (I have removed the actual hyperlink.) In other news, please press 2 to speak to the dying African dictator who wants to share his money with you, and please give us your name and phone number if you want to be removed from the robocall list.

Yet that’s what the message says – not once, but twice. It later adds, “If you would like to learn more about e-mail security or want to report a suspicious e-mail, click here” (link removed).

The final indignity is that the actual link, when I moused over it to see what it led to, was a gobbledygook mess of 72 characters, the last 49 of which were exactly the kind of random alphanumeric mare’s nest that screams out, Scammer Alert!

So which particular third-world country did this mail come from?

My bank!!!

Yes, my bank. My very real, Fortune 20 bank. If I owned stock in them, I’d sell based on this stupidity alone. I’ve already moved a significant amount of money out of this bank – significant to me, at least, and not pocket change to them either.

Because here’s the second stupidity. The mail offers low rates because I’m already a customer. (If I weren’t already a customer, do you really think the rates would be higher?) Except….

Why I Just Paid Off My Mortgage

They had until a few days ago held the mortgage on our vacation home. It was for about 25% of the home’s value. (We own our main home outright.) A month ago, we looked at rates and decided to refinance it at a significantly lower rate, using a five-year ARM because we planned to pay it off in about three years when some cyclical investments came up for renewal.1 The bank – the same Fortune 20 bank I’ve been talking about – held the current mortgage and offered us the nice new rate. I know they hold the current mortgage and have not sold it. So I went into the branch and asked about refinancing. “Oh, it’ll be easy,” the housing specialist said, especially when he pulled up our credit rating and looked at the various business and personal accounts I have there.

Then he gave me about 60 pages of paper to fill out.

Most of it was information they already had on file.

I said, “You can either find a way to simplify this for what you yourselves call a high-net-worth customer, or I will give you a check and pay off the mortgage today, and you will no longer make any money off this loan.”

Which option do you think they went for?

Yup. We now own our vacation home outright. (In truth, I didn’t give them the check until the next day, because I wanted to talk it over with my wife that night. She thought it was as ridiculous as I did when I showed her the stack of paper.)

The Lesson for Law Firms

Obviously, I still need a bank.

But I don’t need this particular bank. It’s a pain to change various auto-linked accounts, so they continue to hold various accounts of ours… but with relatively small balances, since we now keep our cash reserves with one of their competitors.

The lesson here is that you can lose business in various ways. It doesn’t always happen because a competitor is more attractive. Sometimes a business will take their custom elsewhere because you treat them like they owe you, or act in a dumb (unthinking) manner.

I like the people I’ve met and worked with in my local branch. But they’re not empowered to serve their customers effectively. So I’ve shifted a large chunk of my business.

Is their chosen competitor better? They’ve treated me well in the past, though I cannot easily present them with an equivalent problem. But they haven’t ticked me off yet with stupidity, so that’s a point in their favor.

And that’s enough.

Transferring business was very easy. It took far less time than to write this article, for example.

A client may not transfer an existing case or a group of related matters, but new stuff comes up all the time. “Maybe we ought try Smith & Wollensky for this matter instead of the same old same old….”

Treat clients like they matter. Don’t give them an incentive to consider switching… or they might discover that switching firms is easier than they thought.


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