I might as well have just taken a selfie of me in the same pose as the man above as I was dealing with an online bank recently, trying to confirm my PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loan. The PPP, the “forgivable loan” designed to help small businesses stay afloat and keep more people employed during the pandemic, took banks by surprise. Many were not prepared for the onslaught of loan applications.
As with most business interactions during COVID-19, I felt some sympathy for workers doing their best given the circumstances. But now that we’re 10 weeks in, my patience is wearing thin. Companies must return to the basics and not forget the principles of customer service and customer experience.
Here’s what happened and why I still haven’t seen my money:
Like many small business owners, I applied for the PPP loan as soon as it was available. I chose an online bank with a great reputation which was one of the first banks set up online to accept applications. The process was fast and easy.
After being conditionally approved, I had to submit additional evidential paperwork such as my LLC formation documents. I also had to supply a bank account into which I wanted to receive the funds. I went through the familiar process of the bank making two small deposits into my account and me confirming the small amounts. Everything seemed set.
The next time I logged in to check my status, the bank account was missing and there was a message asking me to add one. This was curious, since I had already done this and confirmed the account. When I tried to register the account again, I received an error message.
I emailed the bank and was assured that my account was registered and everything was in order, even though the website didn’t show my bank account information.
A couple weeks after being told I was approved for the PPP loan but not seeing any deposit, I checked the website again.
“The SBA requires that Paycheck Protection Program loans be disbursed within 20 days of approval. Since we did not receive signed loan documentation from you during this time, we had to suspend your loan for the time being.”
I once again emailed; this time I got no answer after a week. I called and was told by the recorded message that the contact center was overwhelmed and everything I needed to know was on the website. Still, I waited on hold, listening to message after message directing me to the very website that wasn’t providing any information on why my loan had gone from approved to “pending.”
Finally, after waiting 5-10 minutes, I received a message saying that my “time in queue has expired” and to please call back another time. Click.
I still haven’t received my loan, nor do I know if or when I will.
When customers call you, don’t tell them to go to the website. When customers tweet you, don’t tell them to call. Rest assured that your customers know the service channels that are available; they are going to choose what channel they want, which isn’t always going to be the channel you want. It is the responsibility of the business to meet its customers where they are.
My experience, which still doesn’t have an ending (happy or otherwise), was so frustrating precisely because I tried to self-serve on the website, and then when I needed help I was told to go to the website.
Ten weeks into a pandemic, businesses have to do better.