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Big-bank service, continued

By Claes Bell · Bankrate.com
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Posted: 3 pm ET

Yesterday I blogged about the revelation that Bank of America had allegedly limited customer service representatives' conversations with homeowners trying to modify their mortgages to 10 minutes apiece. Banks, and large corporations generally, are pretty close-mouthed about their call-center procedures, but I thought Bank of America's time limits might be more the rule than the exception for big banks.

I wanted to find out if this was really the case, so I reached out to a few bank PR folks. A rep from JPMorgan Chase said his bank didn't have any such limits; I haven't yet heard back from the others, as of this writing.

I also reached out to Betsy Ross, a retail banking consultant specializing in customer service in South Portland, Maine, on the issue of whether big banks have time limits for customer service reps. Here's what Ross had to say.

I'm not aware of any standardized time limits for branch employees in any size bank.  What it could be is a process guideline, before passing off the question/issue to another employee.

Generally speaking, a CSR is a more entry-level customer service position. Because of this, they may not be trained or experienced enough to answer more complex questions.

I would guess that many CSRs would refer a mortgage modification question/issue on to a loan officer, or more senior branch employee.

The upshot here seems to be regardless of where you bank, if you have a complicated issue with an account or loan, it might be best to just bite the bullet and visit in person, rather than calling a customer service number, because tellers and bank staff have both more time and more expertise to help you out.

What do you think? Do big banks actually lag on customer service? Is it better to go to a bank rather than call a bank's call center?

Update: A Bank of America representative says there are no such time limits for checking and savings accounts.

"Our customer’s experience and treatment is at the center of everything we do.  We do not have any time limits for calls when responding to deposit product service issues," the representative said.

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