Wells Fargo Gap in Customer Experience

Wells Fargo_Sept52014
I hope what Greg Satell says at Forbes# about Wells Fargo, a bank I inherited through acquisition of Wachovia in 2008#, will be true for their retail banking unit as well:

[Steve Ellis, who runs its wholesale services group]  says, “I saw a chance to use the internet to create new value that didn’t exist in the paper-based world.  We could build a banking business around customers, not products  That means that clients could spend less time dealing with banking and more time running their businesses.  If a money transfer takes a minute instead of an hour, that’s real value.”

He realized that as banks adopted technology they would need to change the way they ran their business.  Instead of operating on “bankers hours,” services would have to be built around the customer, rather than internal banking processes.

This past week I spent 1.5 hours on the phone trying to rectify a “mail to” mistake their system routinely makes every time I try to add a service. No, I cannot do that online — rather I can, but they do not follow the settings for some mysterious reason. I have to call them.

My experience was as follows:

  • When I called the first 800-number, it was in response to a push email from their system informing me a product I had emphatically explained I did not want on two prior occasions was on its way in the mail (the wrong address, mind you, corrected on numerous occasions in the past two years). The last time I explained I did not want that product was two weeks prior when I had to go into the branch for something else.
  • After navigating the phone tree and getting to a live person, I asked to cancel the product already mailed. I do hope Wells Fargo records all calls “for quality assurance purposes” because as soon as I was finally through getting assurances that my request was being processed (I believe it when I experience it), the young lady who was helping me switched into sales mode. I was wasting my time and finally done and she wanted me to consider another product. Timing and all that.
  • The second call I made to the branch after noticing the wrong “mail to” address on a bunch of correspondence generated from my recent visit with their staff. A manager explained that I would need to make an appointment to see someone at the branch, he could not help me over the phone. Security reasons. Ironically, that was why I was calling — despite my confirming address information they have on file (which has not changed in five years), they managed to screw it up.
  • Which is when I made the third call to yet another 800-number to get the “mail to” address reverted to the right one they had on file. Not brain surgery, obviously, yet so incredibly hard to make stick. I had to talk to another department, thankfully a transfer and not another phone tree to navigate, to fix the address on another piece of correspondence.

My experience with Wells Fargo so far is that its system comes first and its system is broken. Personalization also, and I would argue especially, means you listen to what people say to you and make a note of it. No need to cookie or stalk people online when the data is available and freely offered — all you need to do is remember it, record it, and revisit it. Filter success!

As a digital strategist, I work with brands on creating better user experiences for their customers. I am keenly aware that legacy systems often are in the way of delivering relevant, personalized experiences.

The challenges do not deter organizations with a service mindset and culture. They do however deter those firms configured to sell first and foremost. Those are the companies that focus on doing more with fewer people, incentivating acquisition over service, and product push over communication with customers.

It wasn't the first time and alas I suspect it will not be the last. In fact, it has been pretty much routine since Wells Fargo took over Wachovia.

I have no idea what Steve Ellis is doing for the wholesale group. If it is any good, I do hope it helps streamline and simplify the retail experience. In the meantime, I am shifting more and more of my banking to more customer-focused organizations.


Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effect on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.

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