Every time a bank closes a branch, it cushions the blow by saying it is investing in customer-friendly ways to help people do their banking business without the need of a branch.
But how easy is it to locate your bank’s phone number?
RBS and its sister bank NatWest have very slick, well designed websites to help you do this – except that they make it exceptionally difficult to find a telephone number if you actually want to call either bank. Let’s start by looking at the homepage for each bank.
My first thought is to click on the Contact Us section. That takes me not to a page of telephone numbers but gives me six options, one of which is ‘How do I contact you?’.
But instead of giving me a number there, I’m greeted with ‘If you have a query or would like to get in touch with us, the quickest and easiest way to do this is by typing your question into the Ask a Question [section]. If further help is required or you need to talk to someone specifically our answers, where appropriate, will include a phone number or a web chat invite.’
‘Call us’ – but how?
Of course I don’t want to ask a question on the website – I want a number to speak to someone on the phone, so I ignore this. Anyway, I’ve seen an option at the bottom of the web page that says ‘Call Us’. Phew, I think. Badly hidden, but I’ve found the customer services number. Except I haven’t.
It only provides numbers for an emergency, perhaps if you’ve lost your card or been a victim of fraud. Having hit another dead end, I revisit the Ask a Question section and type ‘phone number’. I’m confronted by a dropdown menu, where I have to select the issue I want to talk about. Finally, I get the phone number that I’m looking for – after six unnecessary actions from when I first arrived on the bank’s website homepage.
Hidden phone numbers
NatWest/RBS appear to be the worst of the big high street banks for this kind of obfuscation. Santander gets you to its contact numbers in one click, as does TSB, HSBC and Halifax. Nationwide and Barclays get you there in two. Lloyds Bank was the only one I found that puts its telephone number on the homepage of its website.
We’ve become used to automation when we ring our bank – filtering our call through option after option to get us to carry out as much business as possible without speaking to a human being.
This might perhaps have benefits to both you and the bank, but applying the same logic to the telephone number itself is completely daft. If NatWest/RBS really are intent on helping customers to bank easily without having to visit a branch, hiding their telephone numbers behind half a dozen hurdles isn’t the right way to go about it.