In these days of increasing fraud and theft, it's very worrying that - in perhaps a misguided attempt to be "friendly"? - a major UK bank should stupidly make it much easier for criminals to snaffle its customers' bank account details.
Take this (nearly word for word) transcript of a call which a friend made to NatWest:
Hello? Hello? Who is this? Is this NatWest Private Banking?
Yes it is. May I have your bank account number?
What's wrong with that picture? Here's what it used to sound like:
NatWest Private Banking, John Smith speaking, how may I help you?
Hello, I'd like to make a payment please.
Yes. May I have your customer number?
So if you dial a wrong number and a bad guy answers, you're stuffed basically. They can get all sorts of info out of you and you'll be none the wiser.
My friend said, "Never in my life have I encountered a business or professional firm which tells its staff to answer the phone by saying 'Hello'! Surely it is good commercial practice as well as common sense to identify yourself and the organisation you represent. Too much informality doesn't improve customer service but rather damages it." (Aside - I don't like companies that presume to call me by my first name without asking me if they can, either. Maybe I'm old fashioned but it smacks of disrepect. I'm the client, I'm the customer.)
UPDATE TO CLARIFY: Flabbergasted at the phone call being answered in this manner, my friend ask if their procedures for answering calls had been changed and was told that they had. On subsequent calls, unfortunately the experience was little different. My friend ranted to me first, hence this blog post; the next time, it's going to be a request to talk to a supervisor to ask them to change their procedures back.
Why on earth should the customer be forced to take steps to check with their bank that it is indeed their bank that they are speaking to? What's worse is, on different occasions subsequently different NatWest staff were found to answer in different ways too.
Not identifying yourself and not being consistent in how you deal with customer phone calls is not just disconcerting for customers, but creates unnecessary risks of fraud and theft.
Banks shouldn't be creating risks. Banks, of all institutions, should make it very very clear who they are. It should be banks' responsibility to do all they can to minimise fraud and crime.
This sort of thing isn't helping. In fact, quite the opposite. I trust no banks other than National Westminster Bank are doing it, and let's hope that NatWest sees the error of its ways soon and goes back to the old "script".
Of course, banks have a history of not doing the most sensible things when it comes to technology, to put it tactfully (and yes I count telephones as technology). Though it's usually consumers rather than banks who end up paying the price. So maybe we'll be hoping in vain.