Many of you will remember that my dearest friend Judy’s son Ryan passed suddenly and tragically in January. It’s every parent’s nightmare. When you’re acting as the next of kin, it seems as though there are unending details, unbelievably sad tasks to perform, and very little closure for the raw wound of losing a beloved son.
Ryan was sent to the Los Angeles County Morgue, and spent some time waiting in their backlog. There were delays in getting the appropriate reports, as well as Ryan himself, back to Minnesota.
At one point – and Ryan, being a stand-up comedian, would have appreciated this to no end – it even seemed as though he might be late to his own funeral. But he made it in time for the show like a true professional. 🙂
Over these past few months, the reports were done and the official business of closing Ryan’s life continued: life insurance policies, death benefits from his union, government-related requirements because he was a Navy vet, and all sorts of other details to see through.
Finally everything was in place for Judy to close Ryan’s checking account with Wells Fargo.
The bank’s requirements to do this are pretty straightforward. A death certificate is needed to begin the paperwork. That was sent to Los Angeles where Ryan had his account, and the L.A. branch initiated the closing paperwork against the death certificate and faxed it to Minnesota. Judy then completed her part of the paperwork. Then it needed to be notarized and faxed out to the branch in Los Angeles. Only then would they send a check for what remained in Ryan’s account.
Here’s where Wells Fargo blew it. The paperwork, although a lot of back and forth, was flowing along nicely. Judy completed it, and then needed someone to notarize it. The young man who was helping her walked her over to another desk, whose occupant was a notary public. Upon hearing the explanation of the circumstances and what was needed, the woman’s first reaction was, “Are you a customer of the bank?” And Judy’s response was, “No, but my son was.”
Now let’s pause in our little story to discuss some of the ways Wells Fargo could deal with this situation. Most normal people – are you listening, Wells Fargo relationship management? – would have said something like the following:
“Oh, I am so sorry to hear about your loss. How old was your son?…Oh, what a sad thing. Here, sit down right here. Would you like some coffee or tea while we do this? I’ll notarize this right away for you. My sympathies.”
and even after it was done, perhaps:
“You know, we could open an account for you right now, and then the money could simply be transferred upon receipt of the fax. Would you like us to do that?” Surprise! A new customer for Wells Fargo or at least a sympathetic and helpful encounter, right?
Wrong! Here’s what happened:
The woman looked at Judy and said, “Bank policy is we don’t notarize documents for non-customers. You’ll have to take this to your own bank and bring it back.” This meant that Judy would have to drive to her bank, go in, and pretty much repeat the process she had just completed at Wells Fargo in order for a notary to properly witness the documents.
Judy responded, “Please, couldn’t you just do this for me? My son’s account was with Wells Fargo in Los Angeles. I’d be happy to pay for it.”
The woman declined, saying, “We don’t do this unless you are our customer.” The young man who was helping Judy at least had the grace to be mortified, and escorted her to a teller window in another part of the bank, where she finally got the documents notarized.
The next day, Judy had to return to Wells Fargo to pick up a check for Ryan’s last $900. She spoke with the same young man, and told him she had lost sleep over how insensitive the woman had been. The young man informed her the branch manager had dealt with the rude employee. While the exact nature of this disciplinary outcome remains a mystery, we think this situation bears further discussion.
There’s no excuse for an employee being so unempowered as to make an exception to company policy in a case like this. In fact, Wells Fargo missed an opportunity in this situation, all because an employee, for whatever reason, was unable to service a customer.
A customer is anyone who walks into your bank, Wells Fargo, whether they currently have an account or not. A customer is definitely a deceased account-holder’s grief-stricken next of kin, trying to wrap up affairs. A customer is a long-time account-holder, upon hearing this story, who will be moved to take his many accounts and investments to another financial institution, as Judy’s fiance has subsequently done.
It’s a sad state of affairs that a Wells Fargo employee would conclude that they are powerless to bend a rule. It’s even sadder to think that consequences for doing so might be severe enough so as to make it seem out of the question to an employee. It’s the saddest state of affairs, however, that Wells Fargo trainers might actually have to address the concept of behaving like a human being, instead of a heartless jackass, with customer service (define irony, here) employees.
While this encounter may have been over for Judy on the day it occurred, and she need have no other occasion to do business with Wells Fargo, the memory of being heartlessly rebuffed when so emotionally vulnerable remains.
So we’re sharing the story of a Wells Fargo employee so constrained by her interpretation of company policy that she forgot about being human. Whatever circumstances spawned the idea that this was appropriate behavior we’ll never know. But just like the hurt that resulted from this woman’s unbelievable idiocy will live on, so will this story. Right here on the Internet.
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