Tag Archives: Investment

HSBC “Rgerts to Onform”

I’m always amazed at how much money companies sink into sparkling advertising and PR, but so little into ensuring the emails their staff send and receive reflect the same sheen.

Especially when they call themselves the “world’s local bank”.

Take this recent email exchange with HSBC. I’m a customer, and sometimes use their Premier lounge at Jakarta airport. I’m one of those annoying people who make a point of submitting comments to companies about my experience, even if they’re not solicited.

A few months back I was impressed enough with the Jakarta lounge to send an email to a generic customer relations email address I found here on HSBC’s global site where the page says:  HSBC customers are invited to email customerrelations@hsbc.com.

I can’t remember now what I wrote, but it was complimentary about the initiative of one of the staff, a guy called Musli. I got this back a few days later:

Thank you for your recent e-message.
I have forwarded your email to Jakarta, Indonesia so that your positive comments can be feedback to Musli and their manager.
Thank you for taking the time to contact us.

Great. Just what I wanted. A slap on the back for the little guy.

But a few months later—last week–I had a quite different experience, so I fired off another email to the same address:

Hi, I thought I’d follow up my earlier message about HSBC lounge in Jakarta. Since my last email I feel standards have slipped a bit and the place could do with some attention.

I then went on to detail the slippage: my Premier card, it turned out, wasn’t in itself good enough for Premier lounge, and the staff seemed keener on getting rid of me than seeing whether I carried the magic card. The lounge felt more like a lower tier massage parlor, with four females sitting around the front desk, chatting, giggling, singing karaoke and exchanging backchat with male staff. It got so raucous I and some other travelers went to another lounge to get a bit of peace and quiet.

Anyway, I fired off what I felt was a constructively critical message. I got this back today:

Thank you for your further e-message. I am sorry you have had to contact us under such circumstances.
I rgert to onform you that I am unable to assist you with your complaint.
As you have contacted HSBC UK, we are only able to access accounts held within the UK.
Therefore may I suggest that you contact HSBC Jakarta for them to investigate the issues you have and provide you with a full response.
I apologise for any inconvenience this may cause you.

I wrote back:

Thanks for this, it cheered me up no end. The first time I send complimentary remarks to this email address, and they’re passed on right down to the staff, but when I send criticism you “rgert to onform” that you are unable to assist me.
Lovely stuff. Couldn’t make it up if I tried.

I’m a bit flabbergasted, actually, but I shouldn’t be. It’s pretty amazing that the global email address for customer relations for what is now one of the world’s biggest banks can spew out ungrammatical and misspelled dross like that, but more important, but that the staff member feels able to shunt responsibility back to the customer is shockingly shoddy.

Repeat after me: Every email sent and received by a member of your staff is an ambassador at large for the organization. Mess it up like this one and your whole brand suffers.

(Also being sent to HSBC PR for their comments.)

Poffertjes and Power

Continuing my search for a place to plug in and work at airports, I was pleasantly surprised to find that HSBC has laid out the red carpet for its Premier account holders, at least at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta Airport. If you have one of their fancy accounts, anywhere in the world, you and your partner can partake of their lounge services.

It’s all a bit new, and, dare I say it, charmingly Indonesian: More people (three men watching one female doing the work) were involved in making my poffertjes (a Dutch batter treat popular in the former colony) than there were actual poffertjes:

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HSBC’s Poffertje-Making Team (4)

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HSBC Poffertjes (3)

But that’s not to say I wasn’t pathetically grateful. Food is never good at these kinds of places, so that the HSBC PMT (Poffertje-Making Team) took such care with my poffertjes was in itself a cause for celebration.

What impressed me, though, was that there was ample room there to work — several little cubicles, a couple of actual offices, and, blow me backwards, lots of power outlets — either in the walls, or in the floor. Like these, which pop up at the flick of a little switch. No Wi-Fi or anything, but you can’t have everything. Well done, HSBC.

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Forward Looking or Tired and Reactionary? Welcome to the Faux Community Site

You’re familiar with the faux blog — a blog launched by a marketing company to look like a grassroots blog to promote a product, but actually maintained by PR drones. Naff is probably the word that springs to mind. But how about the faux community site? What word springs to mind when you visit YourPointofView.com, a website set up by marketing company JWT on behalf of HSBC? Despite all the flash (and there’s lots of it), it seems to be community-oriented, interested in your point of view on gorillas, organic food, sports fans and the like.

Your point of view is sought, sort of. Click on a window and another window pops up, letting you select from a drop down list of choices (no, you can’t type anything in) and then you’re taken to another window where you have to register and then offer some personal information (approach to life? realist/optimist/surrealist/pessimist) and then it goes on. Call it a survey pretending to be interested in you, so long as your choices are listed among their choices. So what’s the point?

“We’re sort of teasing out differences,” said JWT worldwide creative director Craig Davis. “The bank has always considered itself a sensitive organization, kind of a guest in different countries.” Davis added: “This is about the HSBC brand and its point of view. It’s living proof of the values of the brand.”

I have no idea about what ‘teasing out differences’ means. But if Davis is being quoted correctly, it sounds like the site has less to do with your point of view, and more to do with HSBC’s. I suppose it’s an attempt to show how sensitive HSBC is to everyone’s point of view, so long as you’ve got a high speed connection, and your views aren’t so extreme they loosely match with HSBC’s choices. You can’t help wondering whether these guys have looked at the Internet since 2000. We’ve moved on, fellas.

Especially when you find out the cost. This is part of a $300 million advertising campaign by JWT and 30 sister agencies, and while the TV ads are award-winning, imaginative and genuinely thought-provoking — looking at things like wind farms, an elderly Asian woman, adding descriptions that are polar opposites, but could be apposite — it’s scary to see how dated the web site itself looks. Blogs have long since made such attempts to woo customers and custom look ham-fisted and, well, phony. Even if they spent only 10% of that $300 million on the website, it’s still a ridiculous amount of money. Set up a blog, guys, and listen to the people. I’m pretty sure that if you asked them, they’d have plenty to say about HSBC, and banking in general. You might not like what they say, but it might help you build a better product.

HSBC aren’t alone in these kind of faux outreach programs. Chevron has also had a marketing blitz around its website WillYouJoinUs.com, which at least looks and feels, when you get past the graphics, to be a place where people can leave their opinions on the future of energy. I’m sure there are more. Welcome to the future, or is it the past?

Phishers Force UK Banks To Delay Transfers

Another sign that phishing is taking its toll on the quality of service banks can offer online customers: The Times reports that UK banks are introducing delays in intra-bank payments to try to combat fraudulent transfers caused by phishing attacks:

This week Barclays introduced a one-day delay for transfers. A spokeswoman said: “This delay enables us to carry out checks that seek to prevent fraud.” Halifax also introduced delays in the processing of payments this week, as have Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest, The Times reports today.

Interesting. Inevitable, perhaps, but this degradation in service can only force some customers back to the physical banks, or to less appealing and less cost-effective services like phone-banking. Running checks on every Internet transfer is going to be time-consuming and expensive for banks. What does this do to banks’ hopes that online banking would effectively replace the high street bricks-and-mortar model?

Phishy Behaviour Down Under

I don’t really need to introduce this piece from Sam Varghese of the Sydney Morning Herald. It touches on a theme I’ve harped on before: How banks still don’t understand phishing and how it has changed consumer attitudes, and how it must change the way banks approach the Internet.

Phishy behaviour or harmless spin points to emails sent out by Westpac banks, which contain “four links, none of which goes to a secure link, nor to the main Westpac site.

Asked why the bank still sent emails despite the prevalence of online scams, a Westpac spokesman said the bank thought it was a “good idea.””

The New Investors For Del.icio.us

Joshua Schachter, the guy behind the excellent del.icio.us social bookmarking service, has provided some details of the investors behind his decision to work del.icio.us full-time:

As you may know, I left my job a few weeks ago in order to devote myself full-time to del.icio.us. In order to make that posssible, I accepted an investment from a group of thoughtful and influential investors. The group I chose to work with understands my commitment to maintaining the integrity of the service and the security of your data. They were also willing to take a minority stake, which will keep me in control of the future of del.icio.us.

Union Square Ventures leads the investment group, and the other members are Amazon.com, Marc Andreessen, BV Capital, Esther Dyson, Seth Goldstein, Josh Koppelman, Howard Morgan, Tim O’Reilly, and Bob Young.

I’m very excited about this opportunity to focus on del.icio.us and put together a team to help me grow the service. My first priority is improving reliability and responsiveness, with new features following soon.

Good luck to all. It’s a great tool and will be interesting to see what Joshua comes up with next. Certainly the mailing list, where Joshua made this announcement, is a lively place and a reflection of his receptiveness to users’ ideas.  

Banks, Phishing And A Dereliction Of Responsibility

Online commerce suffers from one major flaw: It’s online. That means we need to use computers (or computer-like devices, such as cellphones). It means we need to use the Internet. Together this is a lethal cocktail. And for online banking, it just may mean it is fatal.

Online banking, for example, is not like using an ATM. Or a credit card. Or a cheque. Or even cash. All these types of transaction are vulnerable to fraud but they are relatively easy to protect yourself against. If you lend your credit card, cheque book or ATM card to strangers then you are probably not taking the right precautions. For banks, deciding whether you as a customer have taken ‘reasonable precautions’ is quite an easy calculation to make, and they will make it in assessing whether or not they will compensate you for losses.

But what about phishing? Online fraud is — and will become — a lot more complex than offline fraud. Firstly, most folk don’t really know what’s going on in their computer, so how can they take reasonable precautions? I bet, for example, that if you ask most people to identify the icons in their system tray they won’t be able to get all of them. Secondly, if you use broadband, you are connected to the Internet most of the time. It’s a bit like hanging out overnight on a street corner in a bad part of town: You can’t reasonably assume that you won’t attract the attention of some bad guy at some point.

These are calculations of risk the individual should make when he or she conducts any kind of transaction online. But they are hard. We can look around for suspicious type when we stand at an ATM machine, or hand over a credit card to a store clerk, but online we have no really easy way to measure our security and safety. Online banking is not the same as undertaking other transactions.

Which is why I think banks are wrong if they try to pretend it is. The BBC quotes Britain’s payments association, the Association for Payment Clearing Services (APACS) as saying that in a few years’ time “compensation could be denied if people had safety information but ignored it”. Apacs director of corporate communications Sandra Quinn is quoted thus: “What we have always said is that we won’t forever provide a guarantee. A good parallel might be with something like card fraud – if you act reasonably, you are covered.” The bottom line: where a customer had “not acted with care and been negligent”, the BBC quotes her as saying, banks in three or four years’ time could begin refusing refunds.

I’m sorry, but I think this is daft and the wrong way around. Banks were very, very slow to get off the mark over phishing. If I was a customer and had been phished I would have sued the pants off my bank for not warning me about it. Banks have a duty to monitor their website, their name, in fact the whole Internet, to protect their customers. For example, one company I spoke to gave me a list of website names registered that appeared designed to impersonate legitimate banks — Citibank was a favourite, with hundreds of names that could be mistaken for a legit Citibank site. Most banks, he told me, weren’t interested in subscribing to this service. Why? Because they didn’t feel monitoring these names — and the accompanying websites — was worth their time or their money. If I was a customer I would be livid: If a scammer set up a fake bank in the high street to defraud customers, you would hope the bank in question would be on top of it within seconds, warning customers everywhere to watch out and doing its damndest to close the operation down. The Internet is now the high street and banks need to start patrolling it, not ignoring it.

Sadly, I think banks still don’t get it. They think phishing is a static problem that will recede as more people know about it. But that’s not it at all. Phishing is the thin end of a new wedge that will lead to increasingly sophisticated efforts to use technology and social engineering to part consumers with their data and money. The banks’ role is not to put a few silly little warning notices on their website and set up silly little websites nobody visits (like this one) but to throw serious resources at protecting their customers: by building secure sign-on systems, by monitoring the bad guys, by offering well-staffed and accessible customer support hotlines. Anything less is a dereliction of responsibility.