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C.R.M. (Customer Relationship Misery)

The Utter Incompetence of TD Bank and T-Mobile/Android

Vol. 8, Issue No. 1 | January 17, 2012 By Denny Hatch
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IN THE NEWS

Two Google Searches:
TD Bank ATM Card international
You can use your Visa Debit Card anywhere Visa debit cards are accepted, ... The TD Bank Visa Debit Card makes banking more convenient – anytime, ...

T-Mobile International Calling
Keep your loved ones close—no matter how far away they are—with international calling to more than 200 countries ...


My immediate reaction: Something was seriously wrong with First Union’s money management systems. I didn’t want my cash with bankers so stupid that they would spend 50¢ on a postcard to collect 5¢.

So we moved our account to a brand new, heavily advertised Commerce Bank branch one block closer. It was offering terrific goodies: open nights and weekends, free checking, free safe deposit box, no fees at any ATM machine anywhere in the country and a splendid automatic coin-counting machine.

In 2004, two Commerce Bank executives were indicted for corruption and three years later founder and CEO Vernon Hill was ousted. In 2007, the red and blue of Commerce was replaced by the deep green of TD Bank. I was vaguely familiar with the company because of the continual appearances on my television screen by oh-so-trustworthy actor Sam Waterston touting the virtues TD Ameritrade.

Moscow
Peggy is a U.S. representative to the World Curling Federation. Early every December, a WCF meeting is held at the venue of the European curling championships. Peggy gets expenses, and when the meetings are held in interesting venues, I tag along—paying my own way. This past December, the event was held in Moscow.

Before going overseas, Peggy and I always call our credit card companies—MasterCard, Visa and American Express (where I’ve been a Cardmember since 1964)—to alert them of our travel schedule, so that all charges will be honored.

Before any overseas trip, each of us goes to our local TD Bank branch, shows our ATM card to one of the officers at a desk in the lobby to make sure that we will be able to use the ATM machines in the countries we will be visiting. This time we went in separately—one day apart—and sat down with two different officials. After some data entry on their computers (and perhaps a phone call), both of us were guaranteed that all was in order and we could get rubles out of ATMs in Moscow.

T-Mobile/Android—Telecom Duo from Hell
As president and group publisher of the Target Marketing Group, Peggy needs a sophisticated mobile device to keep in touch with her staff, prospects, suppliers and advertisers around the country.

For years she used BlackBerrys and had a contract with T-Mobile. This combination performed flawlessly all over the world (including St. Petersburg several years ago). However, her antiquated little BlackBerry was a text-only machine and she was ready for something a bit more sophisticated. Unfortunately, the media were full of gloom and doom about the future of BlackBerry’s maker Research in Motion (RIM).

Having just read Walter Isaacson’s riveting biography of Steve Jobs, I suggested an iPhone. However, Peggy was happy with the overseas performance of T-Mobile over the years, so we went down to a local T-Mobile store—one of the many that seem to open and close all over Philadelphia all the time.
 
The young salesman was a hip hotshot who showed us some Androids and made us both feel like we were wearing dunce caps. We left and went to another T-Mobile store four blocks away. The sales people there were polite adults, knowledgeable and very helpful.

I was never comfortable with the name Android. I always felt it was aimed at dweeby teens, who thought it sounded cool. But Peggy was wedded to T-Mobile, so she left with dazzling, colorful Android. The young salesman guaranteed her that when we reached Moscow, the T-Mobile’s affiliate company would kick in—as one had everywhere else in the world—and she would be good to go with the T-Mobile network phone service.

The Moscow Debacle
Despite the guarantees by two TD Bank officers, in Moscow no cash machines—and we each tried a number of them—would honor our TD Bank ATM card.

Note to TD Bank and bankers everywhere: It’s terrifying to have no access to cash 4,700 miles from home in a country that is not particularly credit card friendly, where all signs are in the Cyrillic alphabet and few people speak English.

I had roughly US$400 in cash, so we got some rubles (the Russians call them “rubbles”) and toured Moscow the first day. Returning to the hotel, I examined the back of my useless TD Bank ATM Visa card and found a headline: 24 Hour WOW! Service

Below was the following: Collect outside US: 215-569-0518

Despite the guarantee by the T-Mobile/Android salesman, Peggy was unable to make a call on her new phone in Moscow.

We asked our friend Mary if she would kindly call the 24-Hour WOW! Service of TD Bank with her phone and the phone rang ... and rang ... and rang. No answer.

In a single day we were hit on the head by two two-by-fours—TD Bank’s and Android/T-Mobile’s.

Tucked away in my passport pouch were five $100 American Express Travelers checks that I kept for emergency. Back in the 1950’s, my father wrote the official history of American Express. It was a time when AmEx Traveler’s checks were good for cash anywhere in the world—banks, hotels, shops, ships, airports, restaurants and tourist sites.

No more. In Moscow I tried to cash them at our Aerostar hotel, at the Ritz and at a couple of banks. No one spoke English and people looked at me like I was an extra terrestrial. I had to get to the American Express office. I went on the Internet and found the following from Rick Steves' Europe website, on the page focusing on Moscow:

The Moscow branch of American Express is a little out of the way and you should try to do your banking elsewhere, but it does provide the usual menu of services. If you lose your card or checks and have to go to American Express, exit the Mayakovskaya Metro station and cross the street to the tower with the blue clock on it, then walk about 3 blocks along the Ring (Monday-Friday 9:00-19:00, Saturday 9:00-14:00, ulitsa Sadovaya-Kudrinskaya 21a, tel. 755-9000)

I knew Rick Steves’ name and had seen several of his TV travel documentaries. My opinion: He’s a nebbish, who has traveled the world and seems to know his stuff. We got off the subway at the Mayakovskaya station, found the blue clock and started walking.

On this frigid afternoon in Moscow—slavishly following Rick Steves’ directions—we got hopelessly lost. We were rescued by an elegant and incredibly nice Russian motion picture director named Svetlana Golovchenko, who took us to her office, phoned American Express and got the name of several banks in the neighborhood that would cash AmEx Traveler’s checks. We got our rubles and they lasted for the rest of the week.

The American Express office was nowhere near where Rick Steves said it was. Having been hit on the head by a Rick Steves’ two-by-four, his was another brand name forever tainted in my mind.

My guess: The information Rick Steves posted on the Internet was out-of-date and it had never been corrected.

TD Bank’s Non-explanation
On our return, we had a message on the answering machine from TD Bank. Someone was trying to use our ATM card in Moscow and the funds had been blocked.

Peggy called and according to TD Bank’s records, our card was only good in France and Switzerland (last April’s trip), so access was denied.

The next day we went into our TD Bank branch to find out what happened and how to prevent a repeat. All the officials on the floor were at their desks wearing oh-so-cute pointy green-and-red Christmas joker hats. The guy who approved my ATM card for Moscow called us over and we told him 1) what had happened in Moscow; 2) we were not happy; and 3) we wanted to know why the bank would not allow us to access our cash, so that we could be assured that this would never happen again. In other words, how did the system work?

The guy—clearly disinterested—dialed a number and was put on hold for five minutes. During the wait, Peggy quietly pointed out the woman who had guaranteed that her ATM card would be fine in Moscow. We sat there in silence. Finally we said that we were leaving and asked the guy to please follow up to tell us what happened and how to avoid a repeat. Peggy gave him her business card.

We never heard back.

Not only in my mind is TD Bank irrevocably tainted, but so is the company spokesperson Sam Waterston. I’ll never believe anything he says again.

We went to see the T-Mobile/Android salesman and he couldn’t figure out why the phone did not work in Moscow. He then showed Peggy how she could have made a call using the Wi-Fi feature.

That’s called locking the barn door after the horse has been stolen.


Takeaways to Consider

Marketing Takeaways
  • Note to TD Bank and bankers everywhere: It’s terrifying to have no access to cash 4,700 miles from home in a country that is not particularly credit card friendly, where all signs are in the Cyrillic alphabet and few people speak English.
  • If you offer something called “24-Hour WOW! Service” and no one answers the phone, you are a world-class jerk.
  • When an employee guarantees that something will work—and it doesn’t—your brand is instantly trashed.
  • Old (pre-Internet) Rule: “A delighted customer will tell three people; an unhappy customer will complain to an average of 11 people.”
  • Rule in the Age of the Internet: “A customer has the power to tell 2 billion Internet users in the world about being hit on the head with your two-by-four. Facebook, Twitter and Google will help spread the word. And it will be in Google forever.”
  • Incompetent internal people can inadvertently trash your brand. Train them. Make them experts in all possible contingencies and responsive to customers’ wants and needs.
  • Do not let CRM stand for “Customer Relationship Misery.” Instead, make sure it means “Customer Relationship MAGIC.”
  • If you have material on the Internet, make sure it’s current. Remember, Google doesn’t update anything. That’s up to you. (See the second image in the media player to the right.)
Overseas Travel Takeaways
  • Take a checkbook when you travel.
  • Good travel supplies are key. My favorite travel supplies catalog is Magellan's.
  • Alert your credit and ATM card companies of your overseas travel plans.
  • Carry with you in a safe, separate place (not your wallet) the account numbers of your credit cards and the emergency phone numbers on the back of those cards in case of loss, picked pocket or stolen purse.
  • Carry with you in a place separate from your cash and credit cards something other than plastic that can be turned into local currency in an emergency—U.S. Dollars, traveler’s checks, etc.
  • Traveler’s checks are dinosaurs from the past. However unlike cash, if they are lost or stolen, you can get new ones. That said, keep records of the serial numbers separate from the checks themselves and always note the ones you have spent, so that you can tell the issuer precisely which ones have been lost or stolen and need replacing.
  • We were in Moscow during the anti-Putin protests. Advice to demonstrators (and travelers) from the English-language Moscow Times: Do not carry your passport with you at all times. If you are arrested or caught up in the middle of a demonstration and your passport is taken away, you can have big troubles. Instead, keep your passport in a safe place (e.g., your hotel room safe or the hotel safe). Before leaving on your trip, make a photocopy or scan the first two I.D. pages of your passport (your signature, photo, passport number, address, etc.), print them out and keep a copy in your wallet or purse and another copy in your suitcase.

 
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