One of the big eye-openers in the process of starting my own business has been the time it takes to achieve tasks which should, really, be simple.
My struggles with NatWest have been the single most frustrating battle I have had to wage, particularly changing the name of the account from Richard Best to Straightshot. At times I’ve wondered whether they wanted to annoy me so much I’d leave. But they weren’t aware of what a pain in the backside I could be, then …
When I left my job I opened a business account before I had decided on the Straightshot handle, before I’d even decided to start a business. But in March I had made my mind up: a business it was to be, and Straightshot was its name. So when they rang me about a form they needed signing I asked what I needed to do.
‘Of course you can change the name, Mr Best’ He took down the spelling of Straightshot Communications, assured me it was all done and that I would be able to pay in cheques in that name.
What incredible service, I thought. I’d been slightly worried that the deal I had signed up for was entirely remote banking via phone or the web, going into a branch wasn’t an option. but if this was how it worked I was a convert. Close the branches. Burn them. We no longer need to see anybody, we can just log in or ring my new friend Lee, in Hornchurch.
A few days later my euphoria had calmed down a bit and I started to wonder if it was, in fact, that simple. I needed to invoice somebody for some work, and just thought I had better check before telling them to write me a cheque payable to Straightshot. So I called them, I asked them, and they confirmed that lee could and have have done that for me and, if that’s what he had said, then that was what had happened. I should carry on. get as many cheques as I could written payable to Straightshot. Remarkable.
I don’t want to bore you, so let’s fast-forward to June. I have cause to ring them. The madness has begun. I need to get a bank statement in the name Straightshot Communications to get Vodafone to give me a business account in that name. Should be simple, right? She promises to put a statement in the post to me, and I just check the Straightshot status. She’s never heard of it. I shan’t bore you with the details of the fact it took them nearly two weeks to send me a bank statement in the post, nor shall I whinge on about the fact that they gave me eight different numbers over a two-day period – each one the ‘right’ number for me to call to access telephone banking. Because if you think that’s annoying, you haven’t begun to plumb the depths to which NatWest customer service can fall.
She was a lovely woman, really friendly and sympathetic. She seemed to appreciate the fact that I was making an effort not to show my annoyance when she told me that my mate Lee had done nothing whatsoever about changing the name of the account. that the woman I had spoken to, to check it out had, to all intents and purposes, just lied to get rid of me (what other excuse could there be?).
Send us a letter telling us exactly what the change is you want made, he said. I know it’s annoying, and I will start a complaint for you on this because I can tell how frustrating it is.
I wrote to them telling them I wanted to change the name of the account. ten days later I get a letter telling m they need a letter on Straightshot headed paper to instruct them to change the account name. Why an instruction from the account holder and authorised signatory wasn’t enough, I don’t know. But never mind. I duly sent it off. running parallel to this of course was the complaint. My friend in the complaints department, Ali, gave me a call and listened to what had happened thus far. He investigated. And a few days later he rang back and awarded me £20 compensation for my trouble thus far. But poor old Ali then became my personal handler because, like any customer service professional, he decided to own my problems, and made it his own personal mission to get my account name changed. He looked to see if the letter from me had arrived. It had. He would call me back after the weekend to confirm that it had been changed.
Only when he rang me on Tuesday, it was with a confession. They had a record of having received my second letter. But while it was travelling between departments internally they had lost it. Ooops, sorry.
By this time I had cheques on my desk waiting to be paid in. It was only lucky that I wasn’t depending on them to live.
‘Would you mind sending me personally another copy of the letter?”
I told him that I would do it. but that if I was being honest, I did mind, just a bit.
I printed it, signed it and posted it – all that day. I rang him the following Monday to check it had arrived. He wasn’t in. he rang me back the next day. He hadn’t received my new letter – despite it having been posted four or five days previously. but, good news. My original (second) letter had now surfaced and he had set wheels in motion.
The rest is history. It all went OK from then on in. The name was changed. the cheques are paid in. Ali eventually gave me another £50 in compensation when I outlined the number of phone calls and trips to the post office I had had to make and how that stacked up for me. Phew.
And then my new chequebook arrived. Straight Communication. They got the bleddy name wrong.
There’s a reason why they are offering two years’ free banking, I reckon, and that’s because they couldn’t charge for it.