Wells Fargo Adds Customer Service Failure to its Laundry List of Corruption Failures

I had a lovely trip to Canada this past week. And, as is necessary these days, I registered the dates and destination of my trip with my bank and credit card providers to ensure that I ran into no difficulties using them while abroad. And you would think that would work, right? It did not.

And so I find myself writing about failed customer service again.

Now before you start thinking that I should not be banking with Wells Fargo because of all the problems they have had recently, understand that I have had this bank account for 31 years. When I arrived in DC for grad school I opened an account at Madison Bank. Madison was bought by Sovran, which was bought by First Union, which was bought by Wachovia, which was bought by Wells Fargo. Get the picture? Sounds almost biblical.

And while I should not really feel loyalty to Wells Fargo, per se, I feel that these bank mergers should not be forcing me to change banks. The convenience of having the same account is valuable. Switching banks is a pain in the butt.

The problem is that when I returned home late at night and tried to access my account online to pay bills and get documentation for my expense report, Wells Fargo online banking service (initially the mobile app) prompted me to enter a security code that they texted me. Then it forced me to change my username and password.

But wait, they knew I was returning home from Canada that day. I should not have been sucked down this rabbit hole.

And it is a rabbit hole. Because Wells Fargo security system will not allow you to use previous passwords. And this creates a problem if you have a lot of passwords to remember. Because if you forget the new password you created the next time you log in, you have to create another new one. Eventually, you are forced to create a password using a brand new convention, which makes it ever harder to remember your password, ad nauseum.

On top of this, apparently when the Wells Fargo system prompts you to change your username and/or password, you have to wait 24 hours before logging in again, or else you will be forced to change your username and password again… and again… and again.

Get the picture?

What makes this worse is that at no point does the mobile app or the website tell you that you have to wait 24 hours to avoid repeating this process. So by the time you call customer service to figure out what the hell is going on, you’ve already burned a few more passwords. Talk about an insecure system… what good is a secure banking system if you cannot even access your own account?

So I called customer service. I couldn’t chat online with them or send them an email, because I could not log into the system without changing my password again. So I get stuck on the phone in a synchronous, time-consuming process of moving from one operator to another.

After about an hour of phone time, I ended up with the following: 1) I was told I had a choice, wait 24 hours or change my password if I wanted to pay my bills and get the documentation for my expense report (both time sensitive actions), and 2) they would file my complaint and escalate it to the executive suite.

The next day I got a call from the executive suite. I explained the whole process to the representative. Again. After putting me on hold for a bit, he returned to apologize and tell me he was going to document my complaint and the case was resolved.

His definition of “resolved” was to document the same complaint today that was documented yesterday. Nothing more.

His definition of “escalation” was that my complaint was heard and documented at the “highest level accessible via phone.” But the resolution was exactly the same as the day before. Apparently, what most of us would call “no change,” Wells Fargo calls “escalation.”

What did I want for resolution? Most importantly, I wanted a commitment that the website would be fixed to issue the 24 hour wait time notification. And, I softly suggested that since they are always willing to give a small cash bonus to new customers, perhaps a comparable bonus was appropriate for a loyal customer.

I got neither.

Well, as you might imagine, banks treat new customers much better than old, loyal customers. The more I think about this reality, the more it becomes apparent that banks treat existing customers as second-class citizens. They will put more resources into getting new customers than they will into retaining existing, let alone 31 year loyal, customers.

So, after 31 years of being a loyal customer, I am ready to move on to a new bank. What a pain! Any suggestions among banks in the Northern Virginia market?