At the end of June I visited a branch of the bank that I’m with two days in a row. What follows is an account of what happened while I was there and what has happened since.
On the first occasion I was asked what I wanted to do there. I needed to see a cashier and on hearing that the person who was looking after the queue outside the branch questioned me as to why. I felt explained that I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and I needed to see the money counted out in front of me. Very loudly she told me there was a system in place and began to explain to me why. I told her I was aware of everything that was going on and at that point she tutted loudly and walked away.
The cashier was lovely. She said I didn’t have to explain to her why I needed to use her services and she obliged willingly when I asked her to count the money twice. She called a manager over so I could speak about my experience.
The manager was initially sympathetic but then began to tell me why the procedures were in place and seemed to be saying that I didn’t understand what she was saying. I felt humiliated.
I don’t just have OCD I have Bipolar Disorder and felt drained by the experience. I had to return again the next day but I was hopeful that what I had said would be taken into consideration given the feedback I’d volunteered.
The second occasion was worse. I explained again that I had OCD and need to carry out my transaction with a cashier. This person was borderline aggressive in her attempts to get me to use the machine. She raised her voice as she repeated over and over again why the procedures in place and that the cashier should be only used by people who couldn’t access services in any other way. Each time her voice rose I felt smaller.
The cashier told me that she wasn’t prepared to count out the cash I wanted to deposit but she would show me how to use a machine. I explained that I had OCD and that I needed to see the cash counted in front of me. She moaned about having to handle it and was surly when I mentioned I wanted to see a manager.
I saw the same manager who opened her reply with “I’m sorry you feel that way…” She was defensive and repeated several times the reason why their procedures were in force. By this time I was frustrated and tearful, the woman administering the queue was glaring at me and I felt so small I thought I had disappeared. There is a little mini “mission statement” on the wall which I pointed to and was met with silence.
At this point I was given a chance to talk to a more experienced manager had the opportunity to explain the effect that OCD and Bipolar Disorder has on my life.
I told her that the treatment of people with mental health problems and/or illnesses should be the exact opposite of how I had been treated. I had had my dignity removed and the experiences I endured would have a negative impact on me.
I was asked to make a formal complaint and suggest some ideas forward for the bank to improve their customer service with people who have problems with their mental health.
One question should be asked when facing people without a visible disability is, “If someone treated someone I love in a negative way as they tried to access bank services would I be angry?” The answer is invariably yes and therefore staff should be guided by that.
I received a phone call from the bank this morning to tell me as soon as the branch shut after I first raised my concerns they began immediate training to improve customer service. It didn’t work immediately but on receiving my email last week training sessions have been planned and as I recommended using mindfulness they are downloading guided meditations from the University of Bangor website.
I had a bad experience but it has been turned around into something good. I have spoken, I have been listened to and action has been taken. The manager has circulated my email to other local branches and they will be doing training using the guidelines I’ve given them.
Whisper in the ear of the right person and they will shout.