It’s been one of those days again. We had a lot of small tasks to do while in town this afternoon and the 2 hours we had was always going to be a short time, but with some fast walking a spot of luck we had an incredibly successful afternoon, completing every task except 2 – both of which involved the Halifax/Bank of Scotland.

The problems started when we tried to arrange an appointment to check some information for the mother in law. It was all pretty simple stuff but she likes the face to face contact that going into a branch gives. I rang and spoke with someone who seemed to be having a hard time understanding what it was we wanted, then telling me there were appointments available, but if you want that, then, oh, no, sorry we’re really busy and there’s no appointments available. This seemed like a poor result after 3 phone calls (first 2 rang out) and a 5 minutes phone call involving me sitting waiting on hold for 4 minutes. Still, we decided just to ignore the stuff that involved asking questions and just pop in and do the simpler stuff.

When we arrived at the branch we were asked to wait for an “adviser”. Rosie had a question about a letter that had arrived at lunchtime so she showed the advisor the letter and asked for an explanation. The head scratching began. Several possible options were offered – but as Rosie had discussed these in her explanation of the problem we weren’t impressed. listening was not one of his strengths. He went off to talk to a colleague who gave him a form to do something that we had already done and, indeed, something that Rosie had explained we had already done in her explanation. His grasp of the issue appeared very weak and seemed to be getting weaker. Eventually he talked himself into a corner and decided there was nothing he could do. Rosie got her letter back and will simply do what seems right.

The mother in law then started trying to get her small task completed. As it turned out the account we were trying to transfer into didn’t allow transfers, but when it was setup this wasn’t explained! Oh. Can we say poorly advised?

Returning home we decided to simply use the online service. Resetting the access details was required and went OK. For the first time in 6 months the online access worked and we were able to do some of the things we needed to. Buoyed by our success, we tried to open a new account for her online. Oh boy.

Suddenly there was a cryptic error message being displayed

Unfortunately there has been a technical problem. This transaction has not been completed.

whenever we tried to login to open a new account. Sometimes we could login to the accounts page, but often we couldn’t. Removing the cookies sometimes worked, sometimes it didn’t. To say this was frustrating was an understatement.

Apparently the Halifax don’t want our money.

This isn’t the first time that they’ve displayed poor service, but the level of failure shown today has been beyond anything I could have imagined. Our decision to move our day to day banking to First Direct was one of the best we’ve made and in the last 3 years their customer service has not failed once. If they only offered better savings product we wouldn’t even consider using another bank, but there are better places for savings 🙁

The mother in law is of a generation that remembers their bank managers and has fond memories of banks and building society branches. The weekly visit to pay in wages stick in their minds and are recounted fondly whenever we visit, but even she is starting to dread having to deal with them. Online banks such as First Direct may offer a great solution for us, but for her the thought of not having a branch is just a step too far.

Surely there must be another bank in the UK that still knows what service is and can deliver it consistently?

UPDATE: It’s now impossible to login to the accounts with every attempt resulting in the same cryptic error message. 🙁