Time to Human vs. Time to Sentience

With debit card fraud on the rise, banks are getting way hardcore about putting stops on accounts if they notice any slight deviation from normal activity. Unfortunately, their customer service desks haven’t kept pace with the uptick.

From a reader:

“I’ve been reading your articles about tracking the time it takes to reach a human with some interest. I run an internal service department for the company I work for and in our business it’s important for me that our internal customers get someone on the line to resolve their problems as quickly as is physically and fiscally possible. But today I was reminded viscerally that getting a warm body on the other end of the line isn’t as important as getting an intelligent and capable brain to deal with your problem…”

Joe continues:

    “Today I went to lunch and stopped in at the local Rubio’s. I placed my order and handed my Wells Fargo check card to the cashier. The payment for my order was declined. Since the cashier hasn’t got a phone (or much inclination to call a bank over a declined charge for a $4.79 taco combo meal) and I didn’t have any cash on hand I had to bow out of the line and go hungry. I called Wells Fargo to find out what was up. I got a human right away, but she was unable to tell me anything. All she could do was transfer me, which she did ineptly, to the Check Card fraud division to see if they’d put a hold on my card. Instead of transferring me she hung up on me, and since she hadn’t given me, or even offered, the number to call these folks back at I had to start the process all over again. This time I got disconnected by the menu when I tried to select 0 for a live CSR.

    Out of time I had to head back to work hungry. When I got home there were three automated messages from Wells Fargo’s fraud division. This is the third time in a month that I’ve had such messages on my answering machine and each time they make me want to punch kittens. The automated message system they use assumes it is talking to a person when it connects with your answering machine, so it spews a useless message that identifies where the call orginates from and instructs you to press 1 on your phone to speak to a representative. At no point does this message give you the phone number you need to call back.

    I eventually managed to find the correct number and to talk to a CSR in Fraud Prevention. It seems that Debit/Check Card fraud is on the rise so steeply that Wells Fargo have decided to address it with a sort of “burn the fields and salt the earth” tactic. Each time that my card has been disabled by their automated system it has happened, well, basically because I have used my card. Today I paid my Earthlink bill ($21.95 to maintain my old email address for a year), bought a latte at Starbucks ($3.00) and tried to buy a couple of tacos at Rubios ($4.79). This apparently qualifies as suspicious activity. When I tried to challenge the CSR I was speaking with about their tactics he basically told me to suck it. When I suggested that WFB is basically discouraging their customers from using their Debit cards as check cards he parrotted a very well rehearsed line about how Debit card fraud is on the rise and they have to do something about it. When I suggested that what they’re effectively doing is wiping out the usefulness of the VISA portion of the Debit card program he was stumped.

    Honestly, I’d have willingly waiting for hours on the line for someone who could have actually provided some intelligent help. As it stands I probably won’t use my check card now unless I absolutely have to. Seems to me that WFB is going to lose a lot of business over this.”