The Superhero

Today’s story is about awesome customer support and how it can make someone’s day (mine, in this particular case) awesome.

It all started six months ago, when I decided to split my business and personal bank accounts. Since I had no intention of standing in line for two hours, I opened the new account online, with a bank not far from my house.

The procedure was surprisingly smooth: in a UI that couldn’t be described as either beautiful or ugly, I was asked for some personal information, a scan of my ID and a small deposit to activate the account. A couple of clicks later, the account was (supposedly) all set up. Now I just had to wait a couple of weeks for my new debit card to be shipped to my address.

I was amazed at how easy it was and thanked the bank for being part of this smart, on-demand, digital world where everything is just a few taps away.

When the card finally arrived, I was excited to try it out, so I rushed out the house and ventured to the nearest ATM, which happened to be just outside the branch that the automated system had assigned to me.

I inserted the card and entered my PIN, with a smile on my face that quickly turned to horror when I heard my debit card falling somewhere deep inside the ATM. My card had just been confiscated. I had to go in the bank to get it back.

In the bank. Where people are. And long lines. And dumb clerks. Ugh.

I entered the building with the face of defeat (which I’ll show to you some day, but definitely not now) and stayed in line. I stayed in line for a loooong time. I stayed in line for eternity.

When my turn finally arrived, I was presented with the stereotype of the bank clerk. A man in his fifties, with almost no hair, a horrible shirt and the look of someone who’d rather be somewhere else asked me what he could do for me. It was clear he hoped the answer would be “nothing.”

I started explaining the situation, but he promptly interrupted me — he had no idea what I was talking about. He had no information about online accounts, so all he could do for me was retrieve my debit card from the ATM and let me try again. I remember being amazed at how none of his training and knowledge he applied to this particular interaction: he didn’t offer to call someone who could handle the situation or look for documentation on my issue. He just didn’t know. Too bad. Next?!

After a few unsuccessful attempts at getting help from Mr. Employee of the Month, I settled for getting my card back and left the bank to try again.

Same result.

I was disappointed the first time. This time, I was pissed — not because the card wasn’t working, but because the person who was supposed to help me was shrugging the issue off completely, since he couldn’t be bothered by my menial problems. I felt betrayed and abandoned. The great experience of opening my account had just turned into an awful one.

I walked back into the bank, determine to close my account.

I waited in line again and got another clerk — a woman, this time.

Rather than meeting me with the bored look I’d gotten before, she smiled and asked me about my day. This alone took me aback. I walked in there furious, wanting to close my account — instead, I found myself recounting my experience once more.

The lady didn’t know about my particular type of account either — apparently, it was a very new service that they had never supported before. However, instead of shrugging her shoulders and telling me she couldn’t help, she did something that the previous clerk had not even dreamed of: research. She called colleagues and managers and she went online to look up how the new service worked. She was there for me in a moment of first-world distress.

We quickly discovered that I had to sign numerous papers before my account was fully operational. Overall, we spent an hour figuring out what had to be done and doing it. I don’t remember the full procedure, but I will never forget the care, joy and thought that my customer support rep (that’s what she was in that moment) put into every single interaction.

The takeaway from this story?

The effort that you put in helping your users shows and pays off, big time. My experience with this bank was not pleasant and, even though I eventually found someone who was willing to help me, it took her an hour to do so. However, since the help was given out in such a caring and joyful manner, I was barely disappointed by the time I spent on the issue, because I had something that’s invaluable to a struggling customer.

I was fighting against a villain and I had a superhero by my side.




Technology leader and strategic advisor. I work at the intersection of people, software and words.

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Alessandro Desantis

Alessandro Desantis

Technology leader and strategic advisor. I work at the intersection of people, software and words.

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