Ken Lewis and customer service

October 1, 2009

One of the problems with big bank mergers, the kind Ken Lewis championed throughout his career as CEO, is the lack of concern about customer service.

Invariably, customer service at banks gets worse–and often more costly–the bigger a bank gets. And that certainly was the case with Bank of America.

My personal beef with BofA and its customer service concerns it ATMs.

I became a BofA customer after the Lewis-led bank bought FleetBoston Financial in 2004. (I became a Fleet customer when it acquired New Jersey-based Summit Bancorp in 2000–but that’s another story).

One good thing Fleet did with its ATM machines–in New Jersey, at least–was sell postage stamps. It was nice convenience and a customer perk that eliminated trips to the Post Office. Email may be king, but sometimes you still need to send an old-fashioned snail gram.

So what was one of the first things Lewis and BofA did after acquiring Fleet and rebranding all the branches–it stopped selling stamps at the ATMs. I recall asking my branch manager why the ATMs didn’t sell stamps and anymore and she responded, “that wasn’t Bank of America’s practice.”

So in Borg-like fashion, Lewis and BofA assimiliated Fleet and took away a customer perk simply because BofA customers never had it.

Sure, not being able to buy stamps at an ATM is a small thing. But it’s indicative of the way a bank often treats customers after a merger.

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