Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Customer Satisfaction

I was upset today for about ten minutes. Because I graduated from school in May and just started my job this week, there has been a bit of an income gap in my life as of late. Luckily, I come from a creative industry so I can apply that creativity to my finances. When I first got out of undergrad, I began squirreling away money in a Roth IRA knowing that I could withdraw my deposits (not the interest earned) at any point without penalty if an emergency arose. This current gap in my income - just the emergency I've been saving for!

So I took a trip over to the bank that has held my IRA since 1999. Granted, the funds I am invested in have not performed that well. My financial advisor has been all but non-existent. And, foolishly, I just assumed that the funds would make a come back by the time I turned 59.5 and would begin making withdrawals. My investment used to be accessible on line until it was recently sold to a clearing house by my bank. I decided I needed to become a more active investor and wanted to put all of my money with one financial institution. More importantly, I needed some money to fill in this income gap I'm in. I went into the branch that holds my IRA and explained that I was disappointed with the funds I was in, the lack of service, and I wanted to liquidate the fund.

There was a financial advisor there who talked me out of this saying that she could get me into some better funds and would "personally handle my liquidation to make sure it got rushed through." She said she completely understood my current state of finances and would gladly help me. I thought, "Wow, now this is service. Maybe I'll move all my money over here."

Well, that was over two weeks ago. She didn't handle anything personally or professionally. I never got the money transfer into my checking account because this financial advisor who was going to "personally take care of me" did anything but. She filled out the paperwork incorrectly, sent it late, and used a fax machine that delivered faxes so dark that the bank's investment arm was unable to read them. I have called her three times in as many days, and she has never returned any of my phone calls.

I was upset because I realized for the first time in my life I would have to carry a balance (albeit a small one) on my credit card until my first paycheck comes in. Not the worst situation to have. I wouldn't have the money in time to pay the bill and at this rate I'll have my first paycheck before I see any money from my IRA. That lasted five minutes.

The first five minutes of my unhappiness came this afternoon when a woman from the investment arm called me at my desk at work to break this news to me. Thankfully I am in a work environment that is so focused on learning that I am now constantly using every single experience as an opportunity to discover a new insight.

This bank incident aside from being annoying, taught me about the multiplicative power of good (or poor as the case may be) customer service. Intellectually, I have understood this though after this event it is much more real to me. I am writing about this event on my blog. I will tell this story to anyone who will listen to me. I will encourage my family and friends that bank with this institution to switch their accounts to another bank. I will roll over my IRA to another bank, as I originally planned. They didn't just lose my current business, they lost my future business, my family's business, and my friends' business. All because one employee said they'd take care of me and didn't, and then hasn't even taken responsibility for dropping the ball. It turns out that when you take care of one customer, you actually take care of a whole circle of people. And conversely, once you lose one, all of the other dominoes begin to fall too. There is no such thing as a small account or an unimportant transaction or interaction. They're all much bigger than we will ever know. Lesson noted.

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