Page last updated at 14:18 GMT, Saturday, 14 November 2009

Co-op customers attack IT flaws

By Bob Howard
Reporter, Radio 4's Money Box

Co-operative bank logo
IT problems are frustrating some of the Co-op bank's customers

Customers using the Co-operative bank's online business banking service say it is so bad they are considering moving to another bank.

They have complained to Radio 4's Money Box programme of constant problems logging on to the system.

When they can access it, they say they are often unable to find their data or complete transactions.

The bank has apologised to customers and says it will replace the existing service with a new system.

Constant problems

Small businessman Marc Palmer, from Stroud in Gloucestershire, is one customer who is considering moving bank, as he told Radio 4's Money Box programme:

We are truly sorry for any of the inconvenience, difficulty, frustration and irritation we've caused our customers.
John Hughes, Co-operative Financial Services

"A lot of the time you can't even log in. Other times, you can't see your bank balances or any of your accounts listed. There comes a time when it's damaging to your business."

Mr Palmer said he was told by staff at the Co-op's call centre that the system could only cope with a limited number of customers being online at any one time:

"They've said to me they'd been told by the IT department that once it hits 130 simultaneous users, it starts to fall over."

Long waits

Christopher Dowson, director of a London design company, has decided to move bank:

"Having no way of finding my balance for three days except by an 0845 number and waiting on hold for up to 10 minutes to talk to someone isn't exactly what I would call sparkling customer service."

co-operative customer marc palmer
Marc Palmer often cannot log in to the site

One customer who complained to Money Box belongs to the Federation of Small Businesses, which has an agreement with the Co-operative bank to offer its members special banking package deals.

It estimates around 20,000 members have signed up.

Stephen Alambritis from the FSB said his organization was aware of the problems but complaints had been few:

"We've had very few complaints. It's something we do take seriously. The Co-op bank is assuring us it is being looked at."

New systems

John Hughes, the Director of Retail Products for Co-operative Financial Services admitted the system is flawed:

"It's just a fundamental design feature of the system. We are truly sorry for any of the inconvenience, difficulty, frustration and irritation we've caused our customers."

He said the bank will introduce a replacement system in Spring 2010 and is drafting in extra call centre staff in the meantime:

"Another 20 colleagues are going to be working in the call centre. We're hoping that support we're putting in place really does allow most customers to have their needs reasonably met."

BBC Radio 4's Money Box is broadcast on Saturdays at 12 noon, and repeated on Sundays at 2100 GMT. Download the podcast.

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