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.

4 comments

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I became a BofA customer exactly the same way you did, and generally speaking, I’d say their customer service is fairly good, and their ATMs are good as well – especially the new ones that let you deposit checks.
The problem is that Ken Lewis depleted BofA of its main asset: dollars the bank can lend to customers, and service or not – if you’ve got nothing to sell, or rent, you’re no good. This is why this guy had to go, as far as I’m concerned.

Posted by yr | Report as abusive

You hit the proverbial nail on the head. I started to see the huge downturn in BoA’s service about five years ago. There was clearly no commitment to service. Their policies and procedures were not customer-centric.

Having worked for Fleet, then BofA, I can say that one of the most basic reasons for the decline in customer centricity is that BofA puts almost ZERO dollars in training of employees. Fleet, towards the end, put millions of dollars in employee training and customer service initiatives and it was starting to show.

That was before BofA came in. The only training is basic, with no emphasis on customer service and other intiatives. Even now, the branch staff is expected to sell products and services which they have had NO training on as far as what the product/service entails, or even how the establishing of the account should be handled.

For example, thousands of mortgage applications are falling through the cracks because of lost documents and the fact that the branch and processing staff were never properly trained.

All the money/profits went into acquisitions…

Posted by Former Employee | Report as abusive

I am currently involved in a mortgage finance arrangement through BoA, which has JUST completed “swallowing” yet another large Bank. BoA doesn’t even try to pretend to care about ANY customer needs… it is clear that They will behave as it pleases Them. In my particular case, it makes no sense because Their actions/inactions are actually costing them 10′s of thousands in income, but They say “We don’t care.”

Posted by CougarWitStyle | Report as abusive