jarethrake (jarethrake) wrote in bad_service,

Bad Service at my Job

I'm fairly sure we did something wrong here, but I'm not sure what would have been right.  I think this one's going to live in my head for a while.

I work in customer service for a credit card and loan company.  We purely deal with credit in the UK, though we do have an actual banking arm backing us in Europe.

Little bit of background here; every month, we all do a bit of e-learning, which is basically brushing up on policy documents.  This month, one of them was ethics.  It mentioned that if we suspected someone of not understanding that they were applying for credit, we were not allowed to put that application through, and needed to refer them to our mental health team.  I called someone in sales to ask if they knew who that team were, since that info wasn't given in the document, and we only deal with a handful of applications in my department.  The person I asked had no idea, and said they would just tell the person to go online.  I asked my manager, and she agreed that that was wrong, but she didn't know how to contact the right team either, or even if we had one.  I let it go there, since, in six months, it had never actually come up, and I figured I'd deal with it when it actually happened.

Yesterday, it happened.  A customer called in, got through security fine, though he mentioned that, because he'd had a stroke, he had difficulty remembering his passcode.  He asked how he went about getting "his £2000" out in cash.  I told him that his account wasn't in credit (if customer's overpay, we just transfer the money back by bacs), but if he meant a cash advance the fee would be etc and the apr would be etc, and it would take a few working days.

He made a comment about how we were acting like it was "[our] money, not [his]".  I made a jokey comment about that being how credit card's work, which, in hindsight, may have sounded a bit patronising.

He was unable to grasp that we were a credit company that had loaned him money, not a bank in which he had money stored.  I double-checked that he'd called the right company, and tried every way I could think of to explain that we weren't stealing from him, and that the £2000 cash availability he had was an amount we were willing to lend to him, not money we owed him.  He got more and more upset, and starting threatening to call the police.  Eventually, he hung up on me, when I refused to put him through to a supervisor.  I kind of hope he did call the police, or someone; he sounded very confused and frightened, and maybe they'd have been able to calm him down.

I did ring through to my supervisor and ask if there were anything we could do.  If he no longer understands that he's borrowing money, it's against the responsible lending code and our ethics policy to keep letting him get into debt.  He'd missed a couple of payments recently, which had resulted in fees, and if he didn't realise he was borrowing money, he was just going to get himself more deeply into debt, which would be bad for him.

One of my supervisors did actually find a contact number for the mental health team, and I called them.  I think they were thinking in terms of arranging a payment plan; they said they couldn't do anything without the customer actually calling them and asking for help.  I wanted them to put a 'closed at our request' block on the account.  We compromised by agreeing to put a note on the account with their number, asking the next person he spoke to to ring through to them.

I think I may have been being a bit controlling and patronising, though with the best of intentions.  With the policy fresh in my mind, I wanted to do things by the book.  I do genuinely believe that we should stop lending money to someone who doesn't understand that they're borrowing it, because that's how people get into debt spirals, and I know that those with mental health issues do struggle a lot more with debt.  On the other hand, maybe I should just mind my own business.:/  Thoughts?  How would you want us to handle this, if yourself or a loved one were in that situation?
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