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Salem Five: Customer Service Done Right

Ideally, customer service operations should be designed to make depositors feel good about their bank.

Buying a CD at Salem Five could have been a hassle, only it wasn'tAll too often, however, they seem devised to maximize frustration.

Fortunately for me, this wasn’t the case at quaintly named Salem Five Cents Savings Bank, where quality customer service turned a potentially negative experience into a positive one.

When Salem Five announced a 24-month, 1.75% APY CD special last month, I scrambled to get in.

I was immediately thwarted.

First, the bank was closed because of blizzard conditions in the Northeast.

Second, Salem Five’s online application system had gone awry. It wouldn’t let me apply for anything.

The next day, I spoke with a customer service representative named Lisa. I could tell at once, by her pronounced Massachusetts accent, that I was in good hands.

Lisa explained that, for unknown reasons, the bank’s application software was working for some customers, but not others — and that the vendor couldn’t get to the problem for another week.

But, she assured me, they had a “fix” that would get me where I wanted to be.

Over the next several days, she led me, step-by-step, through a makeshift application process.

The process involved opening a fee-free, interest-bearing checking account (on a different Salem Five website), mailing in a paper CD application and authorizing funds transfers from a non-Salem Five savings account, through the new checking account and into the new CD account.

Lisa stayed on top of the situation. She called daily to report on progress with my account — and to reassure me that everything would be OK.

It was.

When I finally saw the CD account online, fully funded, I was so impressed with the service I’d received that I opened additional accounts with money from CDs maturing elsewhere.

I established these through a different procedure, also engineered by the bank, using Firefox rather than Internet Explorer to apply online, but still requiring CSR intervention.

Last I checked, the software vendor still hadn’t completely fixed the original problem.

But I didn’t care. I had a conscientious and capable CSR at my back.

I hope those banks focused on cross-selling products and offshoring jobs take note — good, old-fashioned customer service is still important to some of us.

Thanks again, Lisa — and everyone else at Salem Five.

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  1. John said:
    on February 22nd at 11:02 pm

    Now that is what I call customer service! I have had many nightmare phone conversations with other banks (won’t mention who, but everyone knows.. those big banks!) Anyways this makes me more encouraged at trying these smaller institutions for once. Maybe I’ll talk to Lisa 🙂