Do Banks Have VIP Customer Service?

Do big banks have two levels of customer service – one for average customers and one for the high-rollers? It would seem so, and we’ll have more on that in a moment.

But the question needs to be asked – why would banks play games with customer service, especially when study after study reveals it to be a big priority for banking customers?

According to the J.D, Power 2009 Retail Bank Shopping Study, released last month, one-third of survey respondents who avoid considering a particular bank altogether do so because of a previous poor service experience with that bank.

"Some crucial aspects of a bank's brand image-such as perceived financial stability and reliability-can be difficult for a bank to improve, which negatively affect the bank's likelihood of being selected," said Michael Beird, director of the banking practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "However, branch employees can positively impact a bank's brand image by providing personal service, communicating proactively and having a customer-driven focus. These three aspects combined account for 15 percent of importance in the shopping process, which is even greater than the importance of bank products and services."

So, given that customer service is such a priority, what’s the deal with a gold-plated customer service department for high bank rollers? The story begins on the blog The Centsible Life, where a blogger named Kelly, explains that her Chase (Stock Quote: JPM) credit card rate was being raised by 4%, through no fault of her own.

Kelly went to work on the bank’s 1-800 number, but found herself being bounced around between various customer service reps. But after reading a post on The Consumerist listing the email addresses of “higher-up” executives at the bank, Kelly sent an email to the bank’s executive office and, shortly afterward, she heard from an administrator in the executive office who offered her a better deal.

Kelly wrote, “Chase offered to keep our current interest rate for the revolving debt we currently have on the account, and any new purchases would be the higher rate. It’s similar to a balance transfer (without the fees).  We accepted their offer.”

Kelly isn’t alone. The Consumerist cites another Chase customer who got his credit card interest rate knocked down from 26% to 9% for one year – but only after he abandoned the bank’s regular customer service department, he sent a note along to the bank’s executive office, which cut the customer a good deal.

For the record, the link to Chase’s executive officers can be found here. Bank of America’s (Stock Quote: BAC) can be found here. Wells Fargo’s (Stock Quote: WFC) executive office contact info can be found here. A hat tip to The Consumerist, which dug up the bank executive office links.

So if you can’t get relief from your bank’s 1-800 service, ask about its “executive office” bank customer service. You may not get your bank to admit it, but climbing the ladder might be your best way to solve your customer service problems.