How To Do Customer Service On The Cheap (Shocking BarclayCard, Shocking)

Customer Service is difficult. You have to deal with difficult customers who all demand different things at different times. Companies that do it well become very successful and sometimes live off that reputation. So how can you do it on the cheap? Well, I came across a perfect example today, and it wasn’t pretty.

Let me start off by giving a bit of background. I signed up for a new Credit Card. Christmas, along with a trip to New York, is coming up, so a bit of credit comes in handy. Especially when BarclayCard are offering interest free purchases and balance transfers. Great, so I signed up. A few days later my new Platinum BarclayCard arrived in the post. I phoned up to activate it and transfer some money from a different card. Great, I thought, job done.

Well, no.

I received a letter earlier this week saying that the account was in arrears and I owed them two minimum payments. Couldn’t be, I thought. I set up a Direct Debit when I signed up. Apparently, BarclayCard have failed to carry out my instruction to set up a Direct Debit which meant I had missed a payment. So as soon as I received the letter I logged in to their website and immediately set up a direct debit. After a while something occured to me. I remember reading something in the terms and conditions that said if a payment was made late, any promotional rates would be lost. So at this point I tried to contact BarclayCard to find out if this is the case. And this is where the poor customer service really goes out of its way to hinder you.

24 Hour Contact NumberFirstly, I looked for a phone number to call. With respect to BarclayCard, the number was easy to find (see image to the right, click to enlarge). So I called this “24 Hour” number. Turns out that this number only really operates 24 hours a week, not a day. So despite the number being labelled “24 Hours”, and despite making me type out my full 16 digit credit card number, I got a message saying the line was closed and advising me of the opening hours. It then abruptly cut my off. How DARE I think a number labelled “24 Hour” would actually by open on a Saturday Afternoon.

Right. Let’s try the online contact methods then. Once again, easy to find, but the actual design just screams “GO AWAY!“. As a web designer, you often have to consider your target audience. If you’re designing a site like this, you can be fairly confident that visitors are fairly IT literate. So you can take a few liberties. If you are designing a site for a bank, you can’t. Many visitors will be completely un-IT-literate, beginners. People like your parents. So everything has to be clear, big, easy to read and obvious. What you don’t expect is a form that limits what you can say and rushes you. but that’s what I found. I’ve put a Unusable contact formscreenshot to the left (click to enlarge) so you can see for yourself. It limits the amount you can write and imposes a time limit. There is absolutely no reason for doing either of these things other than to restrict what the user writes. They really don’t want you to contact them. Can you imagine your mother, for example, trying to write out a query in a tiny form box, in a limited amount of characters and within a time limit. To make matters worse, there’s a bug in their javascript that means when you reach the limit, your cursor and view jump to the top of the text box, so you can’t easily delete parts of your message.

Of course, this isn’t the full story of poor customer service. Since then I was told that it takes Six Weeks to set up a direct debit, so I had to pay the amount owed. Which I did. But then I was phoned up by someone from BarclayCard demanding payment. This is despite the fact I have a Direct Debit set up (twice!), have paid the amount requested by bank transfer and, worse of all, when I log in to may account it says payment isn’t due for another 9 days. I’ve never had such a poor customer service experience with any company. Maybe the Credit Crunch is affecting customer service?

So, to summarise. If you want to do customer service on the cheap, advertise great customer service like a 24 hour contact number, but don’t follow it through. And then, make any other means of contacting you impossible to use.

I’ve heard a rumour that the only way that BarclayCard accept complaints is written in blood on 200 year old parchment.