Why It's Nearly Impossible to Reach a Human at Your Bank
Part of my job as a writer for MyBankTracker is contacting banks, and lots of them. Luckily, as my experience here grew, so did my networking skills and list of contacts. Now when I need to find something out about a bank, I can just shoot an email or call to one of their press representatives. But I still not-so-fondly remember my days waiting on hold or screaming "AGENT!?" at an automated machine.
Curious as to which bank has the easiest system to navigate, I decided to go back to my roots and just call the customer service numbers provided (some easier to find than others). What I ended up with was a large list of banks that I decided to rank based of my experience.
One of the most frustrating things for me when calling around banks is when they ask for my account information it leaves me to wonder what people who are looking for a new account do. When conducting this little experiment, I decided to see how quickly it took to get to a person with being as vague as possible.
But before I recount my experience I wanted to switch things up and give you my takeaway.
Customer Service Will Soon Be A Perk
As if a free water cooler and $25 wasn't measly enough as a bank deal, some banks have already started offering the ability to reach a customer service rep directly with high earning accounts. What?! I remember a day when talking to humans was a normal and expected process, now it's a privilege?
Chase is an example of a bank providing this "privilege" to customers who open a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card which offers, "24/7 direct access to expert service advisors (No voice recording)".
Now, I know that the reason they have so many options is for your call to be directed to the right person in an efficient manner. But sometimes you need to call your bank for a quick question and you don't want to sit through the options. Now that you know my minimalist method to rank these banks here it is:
Banks I Gave Up On
Citi Bank was by far one of the worst banks to reach. Granted, the call did end up getting dropped which can be an isolated problem, but it took forever to just get to the place where I had to wait for a person. This was another one of those banks that demanded I entered account information before talking to someone. After waiting 3:23 minutes (I'm a millennial that's a lifetime for us!).
Bank of America was also not the best experience. The call was never disconnected, but I grew frustrated trying to reach a representative. After being put on hold and trying to get to a representative I got a message that said, "We are unable to transfer you to an assistant." Without any explanation of a better way to get to someone.
Banks With Absurdly Long Waits
TCF Bank had me waiting for a total of 8:41 minutes before I was able to get to someone and this was after I had to lie and say I wanted a new account because they didn't have the option of just talking to a customer service representative without putting in your information.
BBVA took second place with a wait of 7 minutes, and was yet another one I had to sneak around the system by saying I wanted a new account.
HSBC was none the better with a wait time of 6:06 minutes and I also had to say I wanted to open a new account as the fastest way to reach a representative.
Some banks like Sallie Mae, TD Bank forewarned me of an unusually long wait time with TD Bank offering to take me to the touchtone service. I appreciated this because you were warned about what you are getting into. Sallie Mae also offered the option of entering in your number and having a representative call you back which I feel is a good way of respecting customers time (and they actually call you back!).
Banks the Were OK
The rest of the banks that put me on hold usually kept me on hold for about 4 minutes.
PNC Bank had me on hold for 5 minutes, but one thing I noticed on their customer service site that stood out was a big call out for a chatline. This is really convenient for people who want to multitask and have a simple question. You can just write your question into the chat screen and oh, I don't know, write an article at the same time.
M&T Bank had a relatively short wait time, slightly under two minutes, but I had to listen to a long recording to first get to the options which was frustrating.
Banks that Won
A few banks stood out for shorter wait times and an easy path to customer service.
Chase Bank, full disclosure is my primary bank, had a 1:24 minute waiting time. I didn't want to give Chase an advantage so I didn't answer any banking information to get to customer service. It wasn't the most convenient way to get to an operator, but I was able to reach someone fairly quickly from the touchtone.
Capital One transferred me to a customer service rep right away which was awesome, and the wait time was only a few minutes.
Bank of the West was also easy to reach. The customer service rep answered almost immediately, but put me on hold to answer my question — which was fine with me.
These aren't ground breaking findings, but I definitely think they speak to the sad state technology has left us. USAA is one of the highest rated banks in terms of customer satisfaction, and they also have the most readily available customer service reps — not a coincidence.