As customers continue to expect immediacy when interacting with customer service via social media channels, responses need to be timely and to properly address consumer needs.

In a previous blog post I had mentioned how Siteground, the webhost for this site, provided an almost instantaneous response and great troubleshooting that won me over as a customer; the opposite could be said for the credit union that is the lien holder for my car loan.

Unfortunately I’m stuck with them for the duration of my loan, but due to their lack of process and disconnected support services I am much more likely to choose a different financial institution when considering a different loan. Even though this is a personal experience, my story has given me insight into how important customer support and processes are necessary for any business to retain customers.


Prelude to the frustration


Two months ago I purchased a new used car and took on a car loan with a credit union. I received a letter in the mail offering instruction on creating an account, making payments online and setting up a recurring payment every month with the financial institution that I actually bank with.

The date for the first car payment crept up rather quickly, so I didn’t have time to mail my information to the credit union to set up my recurring payment. From the dealership I was informed that the credit union charged money to make payments on the phone so if I wanted to avoid the fee I could pay online.

I set out to create my account, which was simple enough at first, but when I reached the end of the digital form I was required to fill out a Captcha signature to finalize my account. The Captcha signature wouldn’t recognize my inputs and after a number of attempts I encountered a screen that required me to wait 24 hours before submitting another request.

After waiting for the allotted time I went through the process once again and received confirmation that the account had been created. However, when I went to sign into the account I was informed that it was locked and was directed to contact my credit union for the next steps to unlock the account.

This wouldn’t have been a problem had it not been for Veteran’s Day weekend resulting in the credit union closing on Friday, meaning I would have to wait another three days before I would receive any assistance. In the meantime I sent an email detailing my issue in the hopes that it would be read over the weekend.

As Monday rolled around I had a few days left to make my first payment, but fortunately the credit union called me back and left a voicemail while I was at work. The customer representative informed me that to pay online I would have to contact a technical support number and left her phone extension in case I had any other questions.


Lack of process and support


At this point in the story is when it became apparent that the credit union had no effective processes in place to properly handle customer concerns. I called tech support, explained my situation, only to be informed that they’re an online vendor for the “quick pay service” and my credit union would have to unlock my account. The vendor apologized and expressed bewilderment as to why the credit union would direct me to call them.

Once the conversation ended I proceeded to call the credit union customer representative’s extension, only for my call to directly go to a voicemail box that was full. Frustrated, I called the credit union’s main number, only to be met with no answer, redirected to a call center and placed in a queue awaiting the next available representative. After 20 minutes the call center informed me that they were closed and stated their operating hours; according to their automation system, the call center should have been open, but it wasn’t for some unknown reason.

A few more phone calls later to the main office and having been met with no response I attempted to call a different department to see if they would answer. The department that I called handled payments, but the representative that I spoke to said that they didn’t handle anything loan-related, only payments to vendors for utilities and bills. They told me to call the credit union’s main number, which only increased my frustration as I told them about my experience thus far. The tone they met my tale with was one of annoyance and they begrudgingly transferred me to a specific representative’s extension, where I was finally greeted by an actual person.

I explained my situation once again and we walked through the process of unlocking my account through the back end of the website. According to the representative it appeared that I had two accounts with the exact same information, which may have been causing the conflict on my end when I tried signing in. At this point I made the mistake of not checking to see if it was truly unlocked; I was also unsure of my current password because of going through steps to reset it with a temporary password via email.

When I asked if they could see what my current password actually was, I was informed that I would have to do that from my end, which resulted in quite a bit of headache later. Luckily I decided to make my payment over the phone in case I still had trouble signing into my account and ended the call after my payment was confirmed.


Broken website and locked account


Despite going through this entire ordeal to unlock my account, when I went to access it I was informed that it was still locked. What made matters worse was my screen displaying lines of strings and queries with error codes, which signaled that the website wasn’t functioning properly. I sent another email detailing my issues once again, only to receive no response and I gave up for the day considering this took my entire lunch break at work.

Another few weeks pass and I’m slowly fuming due to the lack of communication; when I attempt to sign into the account, I’m informed that either the username or the password is invalid instead of locked. My assumption is that my temporary password had expired and I hadn’t created a new one within the allotted time because the account was locked, so I tried sending a new temporary password to my email. For some reason those emails were lost in the ether somewhere and I’m prompted on the website to contact my institution if I’m not receiving those emails.

I’m incredibly irritated at this development and decide to passive-aggressively spam the credit union’s email with the same message every two hours to get a response. Surprisingly I received a phone call and we quickly troubleshot my problems again, coming to a resolution within 15 minutes. The representative was quite helpful and informed me that they had just launched a new website and system, so that might explain the issues I’ve been having as they work out all the kinks.

The representative stayed on the phone with me for a while afterward answering all the questions I had regarding my payment information, loan number and submitting my recurring payment (I was waiting because I needed to include my loan number and didn’t actually know what it was listed as). Everything is resolved at this moment in time and I can finally access my account, but the entire experience left a bad taste in my mouth.


Key takeaways


Typically I’ve never relied on customer support for anything, but my contact with Siteground and the credit union have given me some perspective into how important it is to have an effective process and communication to resolve customer needs.

Processes need to be efficient so that customers aren’t jumping through hoops or aren’t directed to a party that can’t assist them. In the digital age a best practice for consumer experience on websites is to take them to the thing they’re searching for in as few clicks as possible; this also holds true with customer support.

Communication also needs to be relevant, timely and targeted to address a specific want or need. My initial contact with the credit union directed me to an online vendor that had nothing to do with my problem, which reduced their credibility and my trust in them as a point of contact. Timeliness is also critical, especially in situations with looming deadlines.

Customers expect a response online in as little as 30 minutes and that expectation is the same for phone response times. In the automotive industry customers visit an average of 18 websites before deciding on a specific vehicle; if they don’t receive an adequate response time or the information they’re looking for, they will bounce to a different website in search of that information.

My situation is a little different because I’m stuck with the credit union due to my loan, but most customers will purchase from a competitor if the support and the personal experience that’s offered is good enough. It doesn’t bode well when emails go unanswered, voicemail boxes are full, call centers are closed despite being contacted during operating hours and customers resorting to blasting an organization to elicit a response.

I understand systems not working properly when transitioning between new technologies, but changes needed be communicated in a timely manner so I’m not stuck guessing why I can’t access my account after nearly a month of no access. Great customer service and support increases the likelihood of customers returning to an organization; unfortunately based on my experience I’ll be hesitant to do business with this credit union again once my car loan is paid off.