Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Deutsche (Bank vs. Telekom)

1262 words

Heh, this battle can be a tight one: Which megacorporation has more potential for customer failure, Deutsche Bank or Deutsche Telekom. Both are renowned for their skills as colossal FAIL. But traditionally, my bet would be on Deutsche Bank. I can’t remember a single time when I went to their branch and they managed to simply do what I wanted them to do. Every single time they needed to fill out extra forms to send away, shrug in ignorance or simply not know things. And with all the banks I have known they are the only ones who regularly don’t manage to even get the simplest things wrong.

Their latest strike of genius was the following: Banks deduct taxes from your interest before paying them out to you. At the end of the year they are required to send you a letter summarising all the relevant numbers for this which you can then file with your taxes. The bank had all relevant numbers for this on the first of January, they are a huge rich mega-corporation, they have computers and stuff, so you should expect them to send you the letter by the end of January or – let’s be generous – February at last. In fact all the other banks manage to do that. But already last year Deutsche Bank FAILed at that and it took them until April or May.

Hence – assuming that general level of incompetence – I didn’t even bother to ask what’s going on before now this year. But as the letter didn’t arrive, I eventually asked at their branch. Where the reply was that, no, they sent me the letter in February. Or at least that they sent those letters in February in general. Because they can’t really tell whether they sent me the letter. Which, from my point of view, they didn’t. As usual they first assumed that the letter was lost in the mail and they rule out not sending it. It’s odd how my judgement of their competence in compared to Deutsche Post’s differs…

To be fair, this time the person I spoke to was neither the random apprentice without any clue who has to ask his supervisor for every button he touches on a machine, nor was it the old completely disinterested lady, but the person I spoke to recommended to try and file the account statement with the taxes, saying that they may accept that as well. That was a nice touch becaus of the dirty fact that they’ll charge at least ten Euros (a fiver for a banker pulling his thumb from his butt, another fiver for reinserting it properly plus printing and shipping charges, I suppose) for ‘re’-issuing a letter that they didn’t send me to begin with. Bastards.

The other competitor in this pageant is Detusche Telekom. They are generally admired for their widespread incompetence although personally I never suffered from that. My impression was that, yes, they won’t ever manage to do anything the first time you want them to do it because it can’t be done but usually, coming a second time, speaking to another person and claiming that their colleague said it can be done the previous time works around that problem. They also have less incompetent telephone staff than other companies.

At least that was my impression so far. Now we wanted to do something simple: Change one of the names on our phone contract. We have done that before and know the routine: go to their branch with the people involved, take an ID with you, fill out a form, and things will be done within a week or so. At least that’s how things worked so far. This time we did all those steps and nothing happened.

A first call to their hotline led to nothing. Their excuse for that – an excuse that I have heard in many different places by now – was that it was past six in the evening and they couldn’t access the relevant information. It may seem obvious to the conscious person but let me offer this advice to ‘customer service experts’, ‘IT services people’ and ‘business consultants’ free of charge: If your so-called customer service requires other departments or computer systems to do its job properly, those deparments and computer systems must be available throughout the operating hours of the ‘customer service’ hotline. Otherwise I have to battle the system just to have some person tell me they can’t do anything. Which is a waste of everyone’s – particularly my – time and creates unhappy customers.

Another day, another call to the service hotline. Now they could access the computer system and – yes! – they could see what I already knew: That I was at their branch and filled out the form. But – no! – they couldn’t tell me what happened to the form in the two weeks since, they couldn’t tell me how long processing it should take, they couldn’t tell me how long it usually takes and they claimed they couldn’t find out any of that either. Instead they told me to go back to the branch and enquire there. Sensing another waste of time in the making I carefully asked whether the form is processed in the branch (from previous experience I know it isn’t, but for some friggin reason it seems important to actually make the ‘customer representative’ brain amputees understand your argument) and ‘learned’ that no, it isn’t, then I asked whether the people at the branch could find out more about the status of processing than they could (hoping to tell her to just find out for me instead…) but I learned that no, they couldn’t. So I eventually asked how exactly going to the branch is going to help me. The answer to that was that I should really go to the branch and check there. At which stage I sensed an infinite loop of stupidity coming up.

And while I felt like it, I kept my countenance and didn’t shout at the tool at the other end of the line but even said good bye – which triggered some obligatory moronic good-bye script about them being happy to have helped me to close with an even worse impression.


[a week later] When I was in town anyway I stopped by Deutsche Telekom’s branch just in case. At least one of the staff there was helpful! She immediately looked the case up on the computer and sent an inquiry to the mysterious ‘back office’ right away. That’s probably the best I could expect. Checking my online account with them a few days later showed that our phone line was in the process of being cancelled. It also showed the old set of names or only my name depending on the time of the log in. Another call to their hotline with a more helpful staff member there revealed that internally they handle a name change as a sequence of cancelling a line and setting it up again. The girl on the phone was quite frank about this not making much sense but apparently it has to be done that way. I find it much easier to communicate with people talking this way because they seem both more honest and actively thinking about what’s going on there rather than just following a script. Apparently all our request are in their system now (put possibly were mixed up a little) and should become effective in a few days. Fingers crossed.

May 28, 2008, 9:28

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