/ Money

Dear bank – all I want is your telephone number

Cartoon with confused people on phone

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.

Comments
Member

I think this is a lot of huff & puff about nothing.

I’m with Nationwide and the first place I would look for the branch address and telephone number is the monthly statement where it is clearly displayed. I checked the website and clicked on the ‘find a branch’ button at the top of the screen. This only required the first part of the postcode and one more click to display all the details for the branch including opening hours.

I checked the NatWest and RBS websites as well and they both have a similar facility accessed through the ‘branch locator’ button at the top of the screen on the home page. Perhaps they should cross reference the ‘contact us’ menu with the ‘branch locator’ function to make it even simpler, but really – this isn’t too difficult for anyone old enough to have a bank account to manage on their own.

It’s a bank holiday today, by the way, and thanks to the banks’ investment in decent technology I can still do most of what I might need to do, and if I did want to post a question, I expect I wouldn’t have to wait long for an answer.

Member

HSBC also have their phone number on their statements and correspondence, as well as on cheques and on credit/debit cards, so no need to even hunt on the web.

Member

Not any more (January 2016). It is a national number that is just the call centre that plays music indefinitely. A solution to this the banks need to apply is to have a web form system where people can send messages that are replied to by way of an email that advises them when a reply is available for the customer to read on the secure website.

Queue the messages not the people.

Member

Natwest give the number 03457 888 444 for all their branches as far as I know. It is many years since I wanted to contact my branch, but I was put through.

Each branch seems to have a separate international number, so adapting that could be an easy way of making direct contact with the branch.

I guess that Natwest use a central number to allow them to direct calls to the many services that are handled centrally rather than by branches. If that is so then the least they could do is to explain this.

Member

It’s not just phone numbers but email addresses that banks hide. Lloyds swears blind that its staff does not have these but will reveal them if you refuse to be fobbed off.

Member

I haven’t found a high street bank yet that is hiding its phone numbers and I’ve looked up Barclays, NatWest, RBS, HSBC, Yorkshire Bank,Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, TSB, Halifax, Santander, and Nationwide. Some require a few more clicks than others and in a number of cases the number is for a customer call centre. Usually this is an 0845 number but encouragingly there are an increasing number of banks with 0345 numbers now appearing [see the recent Which? Conversation : “Costly calls aren’t right – why TSB has ditched 0845 numbers”].

I also use the telephone directory to find numbers – rarely fails for banks.

Member
The Voice of Reason says:
6 January 2016

Dear John – You really are missing the point here! If I want to contact my bank I don’t want a general 0845 which I pay for! It is another example of something so simple made into a problem. My son needs a quick word about something his branch have arranged and he now has to physically visit his Nat West branch rather than a 2 minute phone call. That is no customer service which is why people are getting frustrated.
I hope that helps you to understand the situation!

Member

Nationwide have an excellent list of all their services and phone numbers with a single click – “contact us”. Another couple of clicks and you can find a branch details including its own direct phone number. Irritatingly these are 0845, but putting them into Saynoto0870.com gives the appropriate geographic number.
Barclays similarly has a list of its main phone numbers but under branch finder they give only one central number. Putting this central number into Saynoto0870 brings up a long list of “unverified” branch geographic numbers, but it is by no means exhaustive. Our phone book is no help. I had no luck finding my local branch’s direct number when I asked Barclays. Why the secrecy?

Member

So many companies nowadays want people to contact them through a central number [with its attendant menu] as a filtering process. I can see both the annoying and the good aspects of that system – waiting for a local branch to answer the call can sometimes be more aggravating. I usually find that the “customer service centre” can put you through to the branch without too much hassle. With banks, I suspect most people only have to find the number once and then save it in some convenient form. A lot of our time anxieties these days are over fractions of a minute.

Member

John Ward said – ‘A lot of our time anxieties these days are over fractions of a minute.’

Very true – we think that faster is better so that we save time, and we probably do save a few seconds or even a minute here or there when information is where we think it should be found.

But what is just as important is how we use those saved seconds.

I bet that most if not all of us just use them to worry about something else, rather than doing something productive with them 🙂

Member

RussellR, they (I!) probably use the time to contribute to another conversation. Me, I’m now off into the greenhouse. -:)

Member

I’m not quite in a position yet to have an account with the Bank of England but I notice that on their ‘contact us’ page [one click from the home page] at the top of the list is the good old-fashioned title “switchboard”. Really is my kind of bank. Must save harder and build up my bullion reserves.

Member

This post just seems like Gareth wants to have a bit of a moan lol

While I never really use the phone to speak to my bank (I do it all via social media & e-mail), I have just been on my banks website & found the number within 30 seconds.

I then tested 3 other banks & found the phone numbers no problem at all.

Member

Lee, the trouble with some conversations is a headline-grabbing introduction that would have you think a whole industry is rubbish. This one might be better headed “Dear NatWest/RBS – all I want is your telephone number” because the intro goes on to say
“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.”
So as some report, many banks do ok. Just moan about those that don’t.

Member

That is very very true Malcolm.

Member
Lessismore says:
29 May 2014

We have found this difficult. We needed to make appointments to see them so that when we were in the same part of the country as the branch we could actually get hold of documents that we needed to. In actual fact they had sent documents to be stored in a branch in yet another part of the country – so we needed to be able to make the arrangements with them to send these to somewhere we could collect from – and make sure that we would be able to take them when we got there.

Try doing this on behalf of an elderly relative (who will be there for the meeting because we are transporting and we also need to be there so that we can discuss and know what is happening). It is OUR time that needs to be carefully planned – so WE need to communicate with them. If you are not the account holder they won’t talk to you and if you give the details of the account holder then you are impersonating them and they won’t talk to you either – and that is just at call centre stage. The branch knows who we all are but it is difficult to make arrangements with them in person because we are never there when they are open unless it is because we are attending that appointment!

I need to tell you about our exhausting efforts at opening a bank account – but not here not now.

Member
Tim says:
4 June 2014

I must actually disagree with “Why do banks make it so hard to find their phone number?” – with both banks that I use, the main number I usually need is already available to me as it is on the back of my card! As I almost always have my wallet with me, with said cards inside, the numbers are always on me.

Furthermore, and in-particular in-case of theft of my wallet, both numbers again are saved on my phone. Going even further, it is likely that I may even recall the numbers off by heart as I believe that they are pretty easy anyway!

Member

Thanks for all your comments here. My big gripe is that the navigation is unnecessarily complex on the RBS and NatWest websites. It’s basic stuff – it should be easy to find the phone number on the website, not having to go through layers of filtering. That’s fine when you’re on the phone, pressing numbers to get through to the right department. I just don’t think that kind of automation should apply to something as simple as the phone number.

Member
Nick Smith says:
20 January 2015

I tried to phone a local branch of Nat West today using the 03457 888 444 someone above recommended. I got through to a central tele-sales person who when asked to put me through to my local branch said that RBS policy is not to let people talk to their local bank on the phone – the local branches are only for people who want to talk face-to-face!
I don’t know what other banks do, but all the numbers Nat West put out there just return you in the end to a tele-sales service and that is policy for them. Don’t just look for numbers guys – actually ring them and see how frustrating it is!!
Whatever happened to making banking fit the needs of the customer?

Member

Nick, I found this with Barclays when I wanted to find out if my branch had carried out an instruction I had given them. Talked to someone in India who could not put me through to the branch or give me a direct number. Do they not have telephones? What if I might have left my wallet or card in the branch and wanted to check?
My other bank is Nationwide. All branches have direct phone numbers listed on their website. Vote with your feet.

Member
mike luton says:
28 February 2015

I found this website very useful which not only lists many banks phone numbers but they list standard call charge numbers.

http://www.handyphonenumbers.co.uk

Member
nichola says:
14 October 2015

So true! I have gone through the (absolutely painful) process of calling the ONLY number on the HSBC site to try and get hold of my local branch number. After putting me on hold for over ten minutes I was told that they don’t have these numbers at the call centre, and no they cannot help me.

Super annoying.

Member

Most banks now have a policy of re-routing calls to local banks to a call center this was explained to me when I tried to dial direct to my local bank. This saves staff time (so they told me ) and makes the staff more efficient allowing a reduction in staff at the bank and more profit for the bank, my local bank now only has two employees .

Member

I can understand the sense of this for many of the enquiries you need to make of a bank. However there are times when you might want to speak to your branch direct – maybe you’ve left a card somewhere or other possessions, or had a problem with the cash machine. One answer is to have both numbers – your branch can always redirect your call to the central office if appropriate.

Not a bank, but John Lewis – it has to do with wanting to speak direct! Problem with an electrical product under guarantee. Spoke to Southampton store where it had come from – well, thought I did, turned out I was through to a call centre in Exeter. He had logged all the details and advised me to speak to my local store (it only came from Soton originally because my local had no stock). Rang them, pressed the appropriate button for electrical / technical and asked similar questions – only to find I was back in Exeter talking to the guy sitting next to the original one. They deal with all technical queries – including guarantees – centrally. There is again sense in that but what I really wanted was to arrange with the shop to examine it for repair or replace and hopefully get a temporary replacement in the meantime. If only the phone menu had said what it was doing. In the end I did speak to someone in store who dealt with it extremely satisfactorily.

Member
bishbut says:
9 August 2017

Call centres are a waste of time All they know is what appears on their computer screen very few working there no anything else Just ask to speak to some who might know any they say its impossible to do that Call centres ???

Member

I hate it when you try and call a branch only to be answered by a centralised call centre who then often refuse to connect to you to the branch.

You should be able to call all branches direct. You rarely get to speak to anyone without pressing 1 for this, 2 for that, so general questions could still go to a central call centre or for out of hours queries.

Member
KIM Jeacocke says:
8 August 2017

cannot get through to my branch phoneline just rings, which means I have to take time off work to visit a branch why can noone answer the bloody phone

Member

Because most times now your branch telephone number will be diverted to a call centre / contract answering service /agent for the company rather than direct Kim.

Member
John Dally says:
7 September 2017

I have just tried to contact the Hull branch of HSBC. The website number was a central office who insisted on me giving details known only to someone with an account. I tried to explain that I was not an existing account holder, but needed to contact the Hull office on behalf of someone who had an appointment but who had been taken ill. After several attempts I was given an 0800 number who, after going through the same rigmarole, could not give me the number but agreed to put me through to Hull. The call was answered immediately and then immediately cut-off. If our banks ever get a foothold in Europe after Brexit, how long before they destroy Europe’s systems. Incidentally, HSBC, along with most banks, do not show in my local directory

Member
Pam Miller says:
9 November 2017

I received a letter from Santander threatening to block my account in a certain number of days for reasons I had already discussed at branch level. Santander blocked it before that . I did write to them and sent it with a tracking number and I can see that it was received. I am not sure I was ever answered on that. I did receive a call and tried to respond to that number but no luck.
I called the number on the letter but got through to telephone banking, tried another one and was asked security questions including when, where and how much I had last drawn within the last 10 days. I hadn’t so I failed my question and the conversation was terminated.
I then went into the branch and sat while they called the call centre to find out how to proceed. The branch has to follow the same system as the rest of us and it took over 30 minutes.
In discussions with Santander since in trying to resolve this- I cannot call them as they do not have direct numbers and they do not receive email. In other words, anything higher than normal day to day banking has to go through call centres, both internally and externally and be prepared to answer questions that maybe you don’t remember off the top of your head, otherwise they will not speak to you.

I don’t see how this is customer service

Member

In instances like this it is useful to have the phone numbers and email addresses of the senior people. Go to CEOemail.com to find these. The CEO, CFO and Chairman are listed.