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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bank of America's Website: Making the Health Care Industry look good by comparison

I had no idea that refinancing my mortgage would have given me such a source of blog material. I would like to think that my previous posts explored business models and lessons learned around the financial services industry rather than complaining about daily inconveniences. However, this post will be different. I am going to happily just complain about daily inconveniences in a way that provides all the insight of a post about hating the morning commute or feeling ill after eating too much Taco Bell.

The bank that owns my house is now Bank of America. Previously, I had such feudal relationships with Countrywide and Wells Fargo and enjoyed the web sites of my lords. With Wells Fargo, I set up automatic re-occurring payments, could find my payment history and tax information easily, and it was very easy to navigate. I actually had happy thoughts about wonders of technology when I gave them most of my pay check every other pay period.

Bank of America, by comparison, makes your average health insurance or hospital website look slick and brilliant by comparison. What makes this ironic is that health care companies often view financial services as an industry that has solved some of the issues that health care still struggles with. Financial service have an excellent understanding of their cost structure, are good at handling sensitive personal data, can effectively explain complicated concepts and services, and are good at working with individual customers on a retail level. These are still goals for the health care industry.

Here's how Bank of America's website has failed to meet those goals and spurned me to openly mock them:

1. I have had to call them 4 times to explain how to do something on their website: Since the most basic business case of any website is that it will reduce customer service calls, this should be a big problem. I had to call them to:
1. Set up a password
2. Figure out how to verify my bank account which involved clicking on "Account Details", then "Manage Account", then "Services", then "Verify. How is anyone expected to figure that out on their own?
3. Figure out how to pay my bill. It turns out their menu bars on the top are for people with regular accounts and the main page is for my specific mortgage.
4. My absolute favorite was calling them to go paperless and not get bills mailed to me. The "Go paperless" button is just an FAQ. The customer service rep had to do it for me and could not tell me how to do it on the web. I almost expected to have to send a letter in the mail to request that Bank of America stop sending me mail.

2. I still have to call them 2 more times: Some things that I would like to do are 1) set up reocurring payments and 2) have bills emailed to me. However, it's easier to set up calendar reminders on my email so I'll just do that instead.

3. Their privacy features are draconian: Protecting financial data is a good thing so I should have no complaints. Only problem is that when I call and verify my account number, zip code, enter my options, and a customer service rep gets one the line, I get logged off due to inactivity. Therefore, the rep has to wait for me to log back in and ask my question. Bank of America could 1) not log me off so quickly, 2) answer their phones quicker, or 3) improve their website so I don't have to call customer service to explain things to me.

I also don't know the answer to most of their security questions like the name of my best friend's pet since he had 12 reptiles growing up.

For a final score card, Bank of America can't explain simple concepts on their website and renders their website almost inoperable with their privacy rules. You cannot easily pay a bill on a website even though one would think that a bank would want to make it as easy as possible for a customer to part with their money.

I'm suddenly feeling better about the health care industries chances of implementing health care reform.

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