The bottom line: Barclays hates its customers, and doesn’t even know how to run its business.
A few months ago, I decided that I was finally going to move my current account away from Barclays to someone more sensible, like First Direct or Egg. Barclays is a big bank with a lot of branches, but those are the only good things I can bring myself to say about them. Given that queuing at banks is second only to queuing at the Post Office in terms of my personal hell, the number of Barclays’ branches is irrelevant. Thus online-only banks such as First Direct or Egg are far more suited to me, since they’d offer a far higher interest rate and probably better service.
I was gearing up to make the switch when Barclays announced that they were launching a new credit card in September; this credit card, the OnePulse, would combine a London Underground Oyster Card, a cashless card and a credit card all in one. This would, at worst, mean that I would have one fewer card to carry around – at best, it would prove to be a very fast and cool way of paying for stuff in newsagents and shops.
It was, in short, probably the only thing Barclays could have done to keep me as a customer. I cursed them, and signed up to receive email updates. Oddly, the first email they sent me was an advert for OnePulse (one would think this unnecessary).
On September 10th, they launched the OnePulse. Like a good geek, I eagerly visited the website to apply for the credit card. I discovered, unfortunately, that only new customers could sign up online – existing Barclaycard holders would have to call them. Naturally, this was irritating because I didn’t want to hang around on hold and it seemed a bit unfair to loyal customers, but I figured that maybe there was some computer database nonsense to it.
Two days later, I call them up. After waiting for ten minutes to speak to someone, I’m told that I can only apply for the card at a branch. More irritation – not only do I hate visiting branches, but why couldn’t they just say that on the website instead making me call, and wasting my time and theirs? Brooding, I decided to put the whole OnePulse thing on the backburner for a while.
(Incidentally, their website still tells you to call the number, instead of visiting the branch)
It was around this time that a very flashy and expensive advertising campaign sprang up all over London, telling everyone about OnePulse. Here was the card of the future, it proclaimed. This advertising campaign extended, of course, to branches of Barclays, which had posters inviting people to apply for the card inside.
A few weeks later, On October 4th, two things happened. Firstly, I’d walked past my nearby branch (50m away) about 100 times by now, which had also the posters taunting me. Secondly, I had a foreign cheque that I wanted to deposit, and it could only be done at a branch. I gritted my teeth and consoled myself with the fact that I could apply for the OnePulse at the same time.
I deposited the cheque and then asked about the OnePulse. This caused a little commotion since no-one knew what to do, and they went off looking for the application forms. One member of staff wearily predicted that they hadn’t received the forms yet. She was right – there were no forms. Perhaps I could try another branch, she suggested.
I decided not to point out the utter stupidity of putting up posters – which had been there for weeks – saying that you could apply for the card inside when you didn’t actually have any application forms, and just walked out.
Let’s recap. I am a person who is a perfect Barclays customer (maybe too perfect, because I pay my credit card bills in full every month). I really, really want the OnePulse card. And yet Barclays really, really want to stop me from getting it. They punish existing customers by giving them the run around, and force them to go to a branch, where they don’t have any application forms anyway. The notion of, say, posting these forms to people, or even just making sure that branches receive the forms and posters at the same time, seems completely alien to them.
As far as I can see, Barclays is a terrible company. It has terrible customer service. It manages to annoy useful early adopters, who could become evangelists, to the point of desperation. I cannot recommend anything they do, and this episode only shows how poorly organised they are, and how little respect they have for their existing, loyal customers.