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 email@example.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.)