The future is friendly. The problem is today!

Credit unions are known for superior service. Let's not lose this enviable reputation as credit unions grow larger. Here's a personal customer-service story to keep everyone in check!


We are a small business with 10 employees. That means that some people here wear more than one hat—including me. One of those hats is systems administrator. My story starts almost a decade ago.

Once upon a time, we hosted the websites we created internally and had a T1 connection to the Internet. At over $2,000 per month our Internet connectivity was mighty expensive. Mid-contact we decided hosting wasn't for us and sought an outside hosting partner.

Now that we didn't need the T1, we were able to negotiate a downgrade in service from a telecommunications company which will remain unnamed. They let us have a managed ADSL connection for $480 per month if we agreed to a three-year contract.

Combining spotty service and our absolute need to be connected at all times, we also added a cable connection to the Internet and some hardware that would allow us to switch between the two services with a little reconfiguration if one were to go down.

With our three-year managed ADSL contract ending in September 2006 and the cable connection being so reliable, we decided to downgrade the ADSL line even further to a simple business connection for less than $100 per month and use it simply for back-up. This is were the story really starts.

The ongoing conversation

October 2006

ME: "Hello, I want to downgrade our Internet connection. We are currently on a month-to-month managed ADSL service."

THEM: "I need your account number."


THEM: "Sorry, I don't have that number on file. What phone number do you have with us."

ME:  "I don't have our telephones with you."

We talk back and forth for five minutes. I give various numbers from my statements and notes.

THEM: "Oh here you are. Sure, do you have your long-distance plan with us."

ME:  "No, I just told you I don't, but I have five Blackberry data plans and two cell plans with you."

THEM: "Sorry, our mobility company is not part of this company. You will need to have at least one land line with us."

ME: "OK, you can have my fax line back. And whatever you do, DO NOT disconnect the managed ADSL line, until the new ADSL line is in."

THEM: "Yes sir, I will make sure that note is on the work order."

December 2006

Two months pass and two more bills at $400. I call the number I was given.

THEM: "The person you are trying to contact no longer works with our company."

So I go through the same conversation with a new representative.

February 2007

Two more months and nothing has happened. I call again.

THEM: "I need your account number."


THEM: "Sorry, I don't have that number on file."

ME: "Arrghh."

THEM: "Oh here you are. Yes, I see a requisition in the system and it appears that the fax has been moved, but for some reason, the Internet connection hasn't happened yet. I will get someone right on that.

ME: "Thank you."

April 2007 (two days ago)

VARIOUS CO-WORKERS: "I don't think our e-mail is working."

ME: "Oh oh, I think I know what happened. Let me call the telephone company."

THEM: "I need your account number."


THEM: "Sorry, I don't have that number on file."

ME: "I was dealing with Jenny Johnson (fake name)."

THEM: "The person you are trying to contact no longer works with our company. Let me check the system. Yes, we have your fax line with us, but I'm sorry sir, there is no record of needing a new Internet connection."

ME: "Nice. Can you please confirm that my managed service has in fact been turned off?"

THEM: "Let me put you on hold. Sorry sir, when I try to call that division of the company, the line is out of service. Let me call you back,"

ME: "Well I might as well order my basic ADSL service again now."

THEM: "Great, we can have a technician out in 4 days, but oh whoops, looks like the modems are back ordered."

ME: "Forget it. I"ll make other arrangements."

So I call information (a service coincidentally run by the same company) and get a new number.

ME: "Can you please confirm that my managed service has been turned off?"

THEM: "Sorry, I don't know how."

ME: "Could I speak to someone who does."

THEM: "Let me put you on hold. Sorry, there is nobody here that can help. Looks like that is a different company. That wasn't in my training and I don't have the number."

ME: "Goodbye."

Irene in the office here hands me a note with a new number to try. She got the number from her husband, who's company has also been having some issues. I call it."

ME: "Can you please confirm that my managed service has been turned off?"

THEM: "No, I am the service desk. I can start a ticket and have our engineers look into it for you and call you back."

ME: "Yes please."

They call back two hours later. "We have a closed work order in our system which indicates the work has been done."

ME: "Can you turn it back on until I can make other arrangements for Internet connectivity?"

THEM: "Yes, but we cannot do anything without a long-term contract. Let me give you our contract options."

ME: "Aaargh! Forget it."

So, I phone my network technician and he rushes out and we reconfigure everything to route through the cable connection. Forget having a back-up. It's not worth the hassle.

Morale of the story

This experience reminded me of dealing with a big bank! When companies get so large that the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing and it's people are not empowered to do the right thing or even know how to make things happen, it is a recipe for disaster. I'll bet I was talking to an outsourced customer service call centre.

No amount of national advertising with cute animals and catchy pop songs will erase this series of incidents from my mind!

Don't let your credit unions get so big that this starts happening to you!

Can anybody out there relate. I'm sure my story is just one of thousands everyday!

P.S. As a follow-up to this blog post, I just received an invoice for $15,151.24 for an early termination charge. Boy oh boy, the future just gets friendlier and friendlier! I certainly plan to fight this.

The credit union movement is alive and well in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada!

If banks are like PCs and credit unions are like Macs, why aren't more credit unions using Macs?