Bad customer service from Halifax – a rant

Bad customer service from Halifax – a rant

I know this is a bit off-topic, but once in a while I get so frustrated by my experience dealing with a company that I feel compelled to share it here.
So please forgive me the rant that follows in the hope that it will make someone else in a similar position benefit from my experiences!
Back in January I wanted to open new bank accounts for our two boys – and the Halifax Children’s Regular Saver seemed to be one of the best offers around so we decided to go for it.
So on Tuesday, 20 January I applied for two accounts for the boys, with Mrs W and me as trustees. We did it online as that’s easiest for us, and as the website says

Applying is easy – it takes just 5 minutes to apply online now.

Ten days later on Friday, 30 January we received two letters from the Halifax asking us to visit a branch with identification for the boys. Fair enough as there’s no way to verify the identity of a two year old and a four year old online:
“…as part of our opening process to activate the account, our procedures require evidence of the child’s identity…please call into your local branch with evidence of the child’s identity…once we have received the above, you will be able to start using your account.”
Interestingly the letters tell me that I’ve actually opened two accounts for each son – one regular saver (what I wanted) and one Save4it account (that I didn’t want or ask for).
So are you still with me?
So the following week Mrs W heads into our local branch with the requested forms of identification for the boys. She presents them and is told that’s fine.
Later that day the branch calls up to say there’s a problem. She should have taken in identification for the trustees on the accounts too.
This wasn’t mentioned in the letters we received, so I called Halifax, who said they knew it wasn’t in the letters but I did need to present my identification in person to a branch to start using the accounts. Once I’d done that it would all be sorted and we could start using the accounts, they promised.
Later that week I went into the Chatham branch to present my identification. All sorted I’m assured.
At this point I also tried to pay in my pound into each of the accounts that I didn’t want but had to have to anyway. This took nearly half an hour of head scratching before the very helpful lady worked out why she couldn’t get the system to accept my pounds and give me the books I didn’t want for the accounts I didn’t ask for.
Apparently my wife needs to present identification before the account can be used – and she needs to do it in person!
News to me I say, but apparently the rules are the rules, despite the fact they seem to keep changing. The staff at the branch were helpful, but seemed to be as confused as I was about what was happening.
So off Mrs W traipses to our local branch again with her identification. She’s promised this is all sorted and we can start using the accounts.
In the meantime the passbooks for the accounts I didn’t want turn up in the post as promised by the helpful lady in Chatham. The only snag is that they can’t be used until the invisible signature is added – and to do this we need to present identification in a branch (again).
If you’re still with then well done, but don’t think the saga ends here…
This morning another letter arrives at our home address where we’ve lived for more than five years from our friends at the Halifax.
Apparently they now need to confirm our address (the one they’ve written to three times by now and has led to our three branch visits and multiple phone calls) as they have different addresses on file for us!
In the course of a 26 minute phone call, Mrs W establishes that Halifax still seem to have our old addresses on file from when we were previously mortgage customers of theirs in the past – despite those mortgages having been fully redeemed years ago and us no longer being customers (we thought).
It takes some convincing for the various people on the Halifax end of the line to believe we are the people who’ve presented identification three times at branches following letters written to the address they’re not convinced we live at.
So, five weeks, six letters, three branch visits and several long phone calls later we hope we’ve managed to open the accounts after our 5 minute online application.
I can’t believe how hard Halifax have made it to open two simple accounts – an apalling customer experience from start to finish and one that I wouldn’t want to repeat in a hurry.
Interestingly around the same time I opened new accounts online with two other financial institutions – First Direct and Tesco.
I’m already a customer with First Direct and recommend their great service to everyone who’ll listen to my ramblings – and they had the accounts up and running in a couple of days.
We were new customers to Tesco, but their online application did everything it needed to for money laundering regulations and the like and we were using the accounts within a fortnight.
And what’s worst of all, I now have the sound of the Halifax TV ads running around and around my head:


I work with technology-centric businesses as an interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO), interim Chief Operating Officer (COO), consultant and advisor. I also write a newsletter called Build about scaling brilliant businesses which you can subscribe to here.