/ 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