HSBC “Rgerts to Onform”

By | March 16, 2009

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

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.)

6 thoughts on “HSBC “Rgerts to Onform”

  1. nwotcha bello james

    how do i get to know”,if my account -on hsbc were still working or not, it has being some yrs ago that i cant check it,,,,?

  2. Mark

    I am surprised HSBC hasn’t responded to this yet. Have you gotten a reply from their PR department?

  3. Jeremy Wagstaff

    No, Mark, nothing yet, surprisingly. Soon as I get something I’ll post it. Of course the bank has probably got other things to worry about right now, but I was a bit surprised too, not to have even gotten a stock response.

  4. Rich Young

    Good stuff, Jeremy. Hope PR responds and we get to read the update.

    Like you, I often provide unsolicited praise and constructive criticism to service providers of all sizes. My wife calls me annoying but done the correct way, it helps all parties. My feedback is generally reserved for positive experiences (85% to 15%) as I want those individuals recognized (because their bosses or colleagues probably never do!).

    In an odd way, it makes me feel good as well. For example, I had a wonderful exp a couple weeks ago at a hotel. I couldn’t believe the friendliness and helpfulness of a certain front desk worker. When I returned home, I sent a letter to the hotel GM. A few days later, I received an email from that very front desk worker thanking me for the kind words, how it made her day, and that she takes pride in her job and making customers happy. It was so genuine, it was real. I love that b/c in her customer facing role, she probably gets more “you know what” than she deserves.


  5. BeenThereDoneThat

    Sorry guys, I am saddened to onform you that HSBC more than likely will not respond. The HR and PR departments now consist of no more than one or two Advisors. All other messages, inquiries and/or complaints will be forwarded to foreign countries that do not understand nor speak English, thus replying with an automated response that goes like this:
    “Thank you for contacting HSBC. This email has been forwarded to the appropriate department and an advisor will get back to you with 24 hrs.”

    As far as HSBC in The US and HSBC in the UK…..THEY HATE ONE ANOTHER!! Such a nasty
    note coming from such a globally diverse company. I know this as I was JUST terminated from HSBC. I was one of the awesome advisors for 6 years that spoke educated and worldly English, who spoke to clients like they were real people, a friend, on my level. I made them feel at ease. I educated and advised them on the many resoursce to them (some of which HSBC repremanded for as it wasn’t making them money!) and I always GOT WHAT HSBC WAS LOOKING FOR….THE $$$, without using the unethical practices they demanded and required. All of a sudden, HSBC decided to enforce those requirements since all the downsizing began and thousands of employees have been laid off and terminated as well as sites shutting down.

    Unfortunately, you’ll see this more and more with all large corporations….that’s why they are all dropping like flies!!! HSBC is on it’s way out as well… Good luck on your response.

    Peace to you all…


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