An Open Letter to Jacques Cilliers – Goodbye FNB

FNB Social Media persona RB Jacobs

Attention: Jacques Cilliers
CEO, First National Bank
Bank City
Johannesburg

Dear Mr Cilliers

new FNB CEO, Jacques Cilliers appointed in 2014
new FNB CEO, Jacques Cilliers

After 11 years I decided to close all my bank accounts with First National Bank. One reason is because I’ve moved to China and have no plans to return to South Africa while Jacob Zuma is president. The more serious reason is the horrendous experience of passing the buck and customer service I’ve experienced.

This was personal on so many levels. And yet I’m haunted by Don Miguel Ruiz’s admonition: Don’t Take Anything Personally. This is extremely difficult for me because I was almost born into this bank. My mother worked for FNB from the time it was Barclays Bank until retiring in 2009 after 33 years. I was also staff member in 2003 working in Randburg Computer Centre with a direct responsibility for keeping the Internet banking systems safe and secure from hackers.

My own experience working for your bank and my mother’s experience was never great. But that’s another story.

When companies think their brand is the best, they become arrogant. When companies rely on social media characters not real people to deal with customer complaints they begin a slippery slope towards self destruction. Your RB Jacobs has been a spectacular success on social media but dare I say not in the real world.

People connect with people. We all want to believe they connect with brands after doing completing our MBA degrees. But no, the plain and simply fact is that what made banks valuable, and bank managers important and esteemed decades before was the personal care and maybe even compassion shown by the bank managers and staff. When I was very young and my mother took me to the branch office in Main Street, Port Elizabeth, I felt this personal touch from her manager.

She was devastated when he resigned after a long service. So why do I keep harping on about my mother. Maybe it’s because FNB felt like family to me. I still have scraps of yellow paper she brought home for me to practise my drawing on. I had got the “BOB T” accounts when they were launched and become well versed in banking vernacular over the years.

SOCIAL MEDIA SMARTASS

Your RB Jacobs team have helped me resolve issues speedily and efficiently in the past. However, I was sure that this function was outsourced because some time ago I became aware that the eBucks social media account was given to Cerebra. So I assumed that RB Jacobs was not an internal function but being outsourced. And even though they have claimed being full-time staff, I still have my doubts knowing how bad big corporates are managing social media in general.

Trying to reset my cheque card pin was the turning point for me. It’s not the first time I was shoved from Twitter to email to call centre, back to social media and email. On several occasions I’ve tried to educate your call centre staff about the complexity of your password protocols used in online banking. FNB made over R7 billion in pre-tax profits in 2013 and you punish customers with a R50 fee to reset their password via a human being in a call centre.

When RB Jacobs tries to be helpful on Twitter, I never know whether I’m dealing with the same person on email. Clearly from the replies I’ve receive they are not the same person. And since I am social media trainer, I’ve conducted a workshop in 2012 where your bank’s social media manager was among the delegates. So I have inside information.

Suffice it to say the link between social media and customer service is so delicates because of all the variables at play. I implore you to reconsider your strategy and find a way to restore the humanity to customer service and banking. While I felt my request was simple, so many of your staff seemed incapable of treating me with humanity and civility, to the point I broke down and started screaming at a call centre agent who told me to go to into a branch to reset my pin, AFTER I told him very nicely I was in China.

The kicker is this, only after I told RB Jacobs on Twitter, Facebook and email I’m closing my account, for good; did someone miraculously emerge. Even though I told this person, Mandisa Viteka, they saved a long term relationship, I decided to go ahead and close my eyes.

CAPITEC IS YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE

When I approached them to help me regain access to my online banking account, they didn’t hesitate to respond. A real person, not a social media smartass contacted me via email and set-up a Skype call. They authenticated me and are now dispatching the dongle needed to access Capitec Bank’s online banking securely, at their cost not mine!

The biggest lesson for you from Capitec Bank is: LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMERS and STOP BELIEVING YOUR OWN HYPE. When you realise how easily you can address customer service issues, by simply listening, you will be surprised how much easier it is to maintain long term relationships.

Over the years I’ve had several intense arguments with your call centre staff because I’m not the average joe. As you know I’ve a +30 year history with FNB, and also worked for the company. So I dare say, I know the Hogan system and the internal workings. Your company has never appreciated people like me nor my mother, and from this day, I make it my life’s mission to help people move to Capitec Bank.

Why Capitec is better than FNB:

  1. Only one bank account instead of a dozen
  2. Paying interest to me of 4.4% while many of your accounts pay ZERO interest
  3. Mobile baking + Online banking is easy and cheap like yours
  4. Younger employees in the branch, who do not have the attitude of many older FNB branch staff
  5. Simplicity in products you can only dream about

So it’s with no regret I bid you a farewell Mr Jacques Cilliers, new CEO, by writing this open letter to you. You have a hard act to follow in Michael Jordaan. In many ways his personal interactions with me via Twitter and at the FNB App launch, delayed the insatiable.

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Author: RJ Thomas

RJ Thomas is an International Relationship Builder. He was born in South Africa, and moved to China in 2013.