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The Official Baldrige Blog

Frustrated man holding a cell phone listening to automated message saying "Call volumes are high, wait for extended hold!"
Credit: pathdoc/Shutterstock

People who know me always ask if I have a new, entertaining customer experience I would share. And while I have had several over the last year, none rose to the level of "entertainment" of my very recent (and still ongoing) banking experience. Don't worry, I have not been scammed out of any money. This is merely a tale of amusement and frustration. And it is an experience where many of you will be able to feel my pain.


I have had a savings account for many years at an FDIC-insured bank that offered relatively high yields. Like many of the high-yield banks, it is largely internet based with limited brick-and-mortar access. Recently, the bank has merged with a large national banking system; along with the "many benefits" I was now being offered, they lowered the current interest rate on my account to 0.01%. After many years, the time had come to move my money. 

I opened an account at my new bank with a small deposit. I then contacted my old bank online and had to establish an external link to my new account to make a financial transfer. That required supplying account information and then verifying the amounts of two small (under $1) transfers which my old bank made to the new account. No problem; after a couple of days that task was easily completed. I tried closing the old account online, but that failed. You needed an exact dollar amount and since interest is accrued daily, I couldn't predict the exact amount. And I could foresee inadvertently leaving a few pennies in the old account and then getting billed a low balance service fee.

Calling the Bank

So I took a deep breath and called the old bank. My first attempt resulted in an automated response that call volume was high and I should use online banking or wait for an extended hold. Having no choice, I waited. After about ten minutes, I got an automated message that waits were still long, please call back...good-bye!

I waited a day, took a deeper breath, and called back. Pleasant surprise, I was connected with a representative pretty quickly. I explained that I wanted to close my account and transfer the balance to the bank I recently established for external transfer on my account. The agent told me that I would have to verify my identity by answering a few questions. First question: in which of these cities did I attend college? Her multiple choices were all in the mid-west, where I never went to school. So, my answer was none of the cities. She said her system was very slow today and she was awaiting verification. After a few minutes, she told me I would have to be transferred to a verification specialist. That resulted in a ten minute hold. 

Joy, the specialist, introduced herself and asked me first for the new bank routing and account number for the transfer. I told her it was the account already set up for external transfer and repeated the information. Then, I had to verify my home and mobile phone numbers. Next she emailed me a code that I had to repeat back to her. Having successfully passed that hurdle, Joy told me to hang up and she would call me back in a few minutes if everything matched up properly. If I didn't get a call, it meant I would have to go to one of their (not very convenient) physical locations and present identity evidence. Fortunately, about 5 minutes later she called back.

First, she asked me for her name. Luckily, I remembered it was Joy from her initial introduction. Then she asked me again for the new bank routing and account numbers, which I reminded her I had already answered and they were also on file in my profile. I just answered anyway to save time and anguish. Finally, she initiated the transfer, which should be reflected in my accounts at both banks in 2-3 business days. I asked for a confirmation number and was told they don't have confirmation numbers, but that everything was documented in my file. I asked how I can access that file and was told I could call back in 24 hours and ask them to confirm the transaction information back to me. I asked if I would have to verify my identity. Of course, for my protection, the answer was "yes." Total elapsed time since I spoke to the first bank representative, one hour.

It is now one business day later and I have not had the energy to call back. I am waiting for 2-3 business days to pass and check online.

Retail Banking Customer Satisfaction

I wondered if my experience was an anomaly. A little research turned up the J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study. Some of the significant conclusions were:

  • A decade after the financial crisis, the industry's reputation has not yet returned to pre-crisis levels.
  • Customer perceptions are that service quality has improved over the last ten years, however customers perceive that bank reputation and customer-driven focus have declined.
  • Customer satisfaction with problem resolution and telephone customer service have declined.

Banking Reconceived

With that data in hand, I would like to recommend the introductory Baldrige Excellence Builder to my (former) bank. I can't think of any questions in the Customer Engagement item (Item 3.2) that they could answer without feeling embarrassed. Just to give a few examples:

  • How do you build and manage customer relationships?
  • How do you enable customers to seek information and support?
  • How do you determine customer satisfaction, dissatisfaction, and engagement?
  • How do you use voice-of-the-customer and market data and information?

While you ponder those questions for your personal service providers, I have one request to make. Wish me luck that my banking experience will now have a happy ending!

2019-2020 Baldrige Excellence Framework Business/Nonprofit cover artwork

Baldrige Excellence Framework

The Baldrige Excellence Framework has empowered organizations to accomplish their missions, improve results, and become more competitive. It includes the Criteria for Performance Excellence, core values and concepts, and guidelines for evaluating your processes and results.

Purchase your copy today!

Available versions: Business/Nonprofit, Education, and Health Care

About the author

Harry Hertz “The Baldrige Cheermudgeon”

I am Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon, and Director Emeritus of the Baldrige Program. I joined the Program in 1992 after a decade in management in the analytical chemistry and chemical sciences laboratories at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the home of the Baldrige Program. I started my career at NIST (NBS) as a bench analytical chemist.

My favorite aspects of the Baldrige Program are: (1) the opportunity to interact with leading thinkers from all sectors of the U.S. economy who serve as volunteers in the Baldrige Program, who participate in the Baldrige Executive Fellows Program, and who represent Award applicants at the forefront of the continuous journey to performance excellence, and (2) the intellectual challenge of synthesizing ideas from leading thinkers and from personal research into Insights on the Road to Performance Excellence and other blogs that tackle challenges at the “leading edge of validated leadership and performance practice,” and contribute to the continuous revision of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Framework.

Outside of work I spend my time with family (including three beautiful granddaughters), exercising, baking bread, traveling, educating tomorrow’s leaders, and participating on various boards and board committees.

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I really want to know which bank so that I can avoid it!

Sorry Don but sharing commercial names that are endorsements or the opposite violate our blog policy :-(

I found a lot of information after reading your article. Thanks to the moderator of this site for writing such a beautiful article.

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