Are Extended Customer Service Hours Still a Thing?

Clocks on purple wall Extended customer service hours – the ability of your customer to reach you when they perceive that they need you – is an important part of the customer relationship.  Experts encourage companies to do whatever it takes to be there for the customer via social media (all channels), telephone, email, chat, mail and telephone, typically followed by “WHENEVER the customer needs you.” In reality, always being there and always being everywhere can be expensive.

I noticed an interesting contrast recently – one with the bank with which I’ve had my personal accounts for over 30 years and another with the company from which I buy protective cases for my cell phone.

It was a Friday night when I mistyped the online banking password I’d used for the last few months and got locked out of my primary account. UGH. I did what I’d always done in the past and picked up the phone to call the bank’s customer service number. Hmmm…they’d changed it. It was no longer a local number and it was toll-free. I called that number and after entering my account number, my mother’s maiden name, my birthdate, my zip code and a few other pieces of identifying info, I ended up with a voice mail. “You’ve reached us after hours. Please call back between 8am and 8pm Eastern Standard Time Monday through Friday.”

Seriously? I was shocked. I’d been a customer with this bank since my first job out of college and had always been able to reach their customer service number after hours. I’m busy during regular business hours and I LOVE being able to deal with personal stuff like banking during evenings and weekends.

Next, I went to social media. The bank’s Facebook page touted their community activities, with disabled comment functionality and a a profile which said, “For customer service matters, we encourage you to contact our Quality Process Department at (313) xxx-xxxx.” When you call the number, you can leave a message, which they say they will return during regular business hours. Again, no extended customer service hours. I was really getting frustrated. I left a detailed message with my name and phone number. (Unfortunately, it’s been two weeks and they’ve not responded.)

The bank’s Twitter account is similar, with most responses to complaints advising the consumer to call the customer service number Monday through Friday.

I admit being a bit freaked out. I didn’t know if I’d simply fat-fingered my password, or if someone had broken into my account. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t log in on my laptop or on the bank’s mobile app.

What happened to the bank I used to have? The one that I could call when I had a question or if I got locked out of my account, even if it was an evening or weekend? Where did they go? I was curious about whether I was taking this change in service levels so personally, so I posted a few informal questions to my social media followers and found out that most adamantly prefer to have some extended hours, i.e. service from 8am to 11pm weekdays and 10am to 6pm on the weekend days. One of my friends said she’d rather wait until Monday than have to “talk to an off-shore agent.”

Moving ahead, I called the bank on Monday morning and explained my distress. The agent didn’t apologize or even acknowledge my comment about the shortened hours. The best part? At the end of the call, I was able to log in to my account and felt incredible relief  to see everything was as it should be. I thanked her profusely. Click. She said nothing else and simply hung up.

Oh, and the other situation I mentioned in my first paragraph? I had purchased the wrong cell phone case for my new Google Pixel. My husband called Otterbox and ordered me a new one while I was struggling to get in touch with the bank on Saturday afternoon. (I guess that case was *kind of* an emergency.) I’m wondering if my bank might take a lesson from them and consider giving back some of our beyond-business-hours customer service. I know if (or should I say when) something like this happens again, I might be tempted to move to one of my bank’s competitors.

I’m also very curious about whether my personal experience is the sign of a trend. If you’ve noticed customer service hours being cut or if you’re a manager who has been forced to deal with less resources and less labor hours, share your story in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.

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Lori Jo Vest is the co-author of Who’s Your Gladys? and Taming Gladys! Learn more about Lori on LinkedIn: Lori Jo Vest, Consultant/Author

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