Taking Care of (Banking) Business
Proves Frustrating When the System is Down
By Edward Shanahan
Over the last several months, I’ve had trouble gaining access on a consistent basis to on-line banking at both the Florence Savings Bank and Northampton Co-op Bank sites.
It was not only frustrating, even irritating, but more importantly you could not count on conducting business when it was convenient to do so, something the banks have heavily promoted. They actually want us to pay all of our bills on line, I assume because it is good for their business.
But, on-line banking has not been great for the customer, if convenience and predictability are important.
The systems at both banks have been down almost as often over the last several months as they were functioning. I regularly visit and have occasion to use the services at many web sites and have none of the problems I have with local on-line banking.
Even though the banks promised that on-line banking could be done from the comfort of our homes, that was precisely wrong.
Our homes are comfortable enough, but dealing with the on-line bank is not. System was down, try again later. Server can’t be found. No explanation, no apology, nada.
And then came the full-bore meltdown. Within the last two weeks the systems appeared to die a permanent death – being out of service for an entire Friday, Saturday, Sunday Monday and then again later the next week.
In frustration bordering on anger, I called customer service; Sue at the Florence Savings Bank acknowledged that there were serious problems that the bank and its server were trying to solve, but the bank’s contract with the provider prevented the bank for making other arrangements. She was very sorry, she told me.
I suggested to Sue that John Heaps, bank president, take a full-page ad in the local newspaper to explain what was gong on because bank customers had a right to know why they could not pay their bills on-line. He should also apologize in the process. She said she’d pass along the suggestion.
Later I talked to Jen at customer service for Northampton Co-op Bank, and she, too, apologized for lack of access by customers to the site. I suggested she pass along this specific customer’s complaint to William Stapleton, Co-op bank president.
I had told her, incidentally, that I had written earlier to Mr. Stapleton to explain that both his bank and the Florence Savings Banks engaged the identical on-line service and thus when one bank was off line, both were.
I had told Mr. Stapleton in my letter this seemed like a dumb approach for two local “hometown” banks to compete for customers by using the same unreliable contactor for its on-line service. In response, he wrote that he agreed and that perhaps a change would be made in the future.
Never happened so when the collapse came, both banks bit the dust.
A couple of days ago, the Florence bank finally posted a small notice saying they understood customers were experiencing a problem when they clicked for on-line banking access. And the bank tendered a sincere apology for any inconvenience.
Not much of a concession, really, but on April 2, about two weeks after the troubles hit, we got the full treatment —on-line:
Apologies from the Florence Savings Bank
On behalf of everyone at our financial institution, we wish to extend our sincerest apologies for the recent system issues you may have experienced when trying to access our online service. Please be assured that any transactions you scheduled previously have been processed. In addition, if you were unable to schedule a payment to one of your existing payees between March 21 and April 1 due to a system outage and this resulted in a late fee, we will cover the late fee in accordance with our payment guarantee.
We understand and appreciate the level of concern you have as a result of the recent service interruption of our online banking system. Over the last twoweeks our service provider, one of the largest providers in the industry, experienced intermittent technical problems with an upgrade to the operating system.
These issues impacted not only Florence Savings Bank, but all banks serviced by our online banking provider, including many local banks as well as banks nationwide.
These issues have been addressed and our online banking customers should have full access to the system. There is additional maintenance scheduled in an effort to further strengthen the operating system. Although we do not anticipate a problem with the maintenance, all appropriate senior level staff are dedicated to the issue.
Thank you for your patience as we work diligently with our service provider to further increase our reliability. We are committed to providing you with a robust and reliable online service, and are taking all possible actions to ensure we retain your trust and confidence.
Still no word from the Co-op Bank.
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