HSBC Premier Banking – not the best service around

UK faces inflation rise

The HSBC offers a Premier Banking service, like a number of other high street banks.

Benefits offered include free travel insurance, preferential lending rates, and improved customer service.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to relate in what way the customer service is actually improved.

True, you may find yourself able to avoid queues in high street branches by being ushered to a more private area, where your banking requirements can be dealt with.

Additionally, you also have access to a Premier Direct telephone service.

The trouble is, the HSBC isn’t really renown for customer service. You cannot ring up any local branch directly, but instead have to ring an Indian call centre first, who will then attempt to put you through to the relevant branch or person at their discretion.

The impression given is that customer service is provided on the cheap, because the customers themselves aren’t worth a higher level of service. It saves the HSBC money, certainly, but it takes away from the customer experience, rather than adds to it.

HSBC Premier customers do have access to UK call centre staff. Unfortunately, it feels like you are actually dealing with just call centre staff, rather than anyone with any real banking training as you’d expect from calling a high street branch – and that means all of the problems endemic with call centres.

I’ve twice called to put in requests to have someone contact myself about personal investment vehicles, and have never received a reply.

Additionally, like too many call centres, you can find yourself cut-off without warning, especially if the call is being transferred between departments or you are kept on hold for a certain length of time.

As was the case when I called HSBC Premier this week about arranging a small loan.

I only wanted to request £1000 – we’re buying a big new shed for the back garden, and as a company director I live on quarterly dividend payments. Which means spending a few thousand in a single month can dent the personal finances somewhat – especially when I’m overpaying my mortgage twice over each month as well.

Unfortunately, HSBC show their continued contempt for their own customers – even Premier ones.

After being cut off and calling again, I was informed that for a £1000 loan, HSBC would charge me 19.9% – for no other reason than it’s not worth their time to offer such a loan without charge extensively to cover their interest.

The sad thing is how badly this impact brand loyalty.

My fixed rate mortgage comes up for renewal next year. I’m sure the HSBC would love to get their hands on it. And, previously, I would have been happy to go direct to them because it would seem like less hassle to get a mortgage from my personal bank.

However, HSBC have made it clear that customer care and developing brand loyalty just aren’t priorities for them. Better to aggressively chase profits at the expense of customers, which may offer short-term gains, but possibly also offer long-term losses.

Because of their failure to get back to myself on investment options, I’m now going to be setting up a new £20k investment portfolio with another company. Not a really large investment, but HSBC wouldn’t even offer themselves as an option.

And when my £200+k mortgage comes up for renewal next year, HSBC have already told me via my loan request that I’m not worth their time unless I’m offering them a big profit. So what incentive do I have to care to offer it to them?

In the meantime, I ended up approaching Northern Rock, who offer a great rate of 7.4% on personal loans, and ended up increasing my loan amount to £2000.

At this rate, and with their apparently better understanding of customer care, Northern Rock could also get my mortgage.

In the meantime, HSBC will be counting the pennies they saved, not realising the pounds that they’ve lost.

Unfortunately, from my personal experiences with other major banks, there’s is not an isolated attitude.

In the meantime HSBC Premier banking offers me free travel insurance, though I rarely travel, preferential lending rates only when it’s worth them making the effort, and the customer care level continues to be below par.

Some people like myself already qualify for Premier banking for free – and for the freebies I’m sure I’m grateful. But I certainly wouldn’t pay for this kind of service if I’m really honest.

UPDATE: 22/08/2007 – Someone from the HSBC press office emailed me after reading this, stating that HSBC offer Personal Relation Managers, and to raise any queries with him.

I sent an email reply pointing out that I no longer had a PRM – I guess HSBC aren’t immune from high staff turnover in call centres.

Unfortunately, my email bounced. The HSBC mailserver produced a “421 Service not available” error. Somehow that seems to underline the problems I reported in the original post.


Comments (12)

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  1. Dr Colin Key says:

    Spelling mistakes and poor grammar aside, this article is a load of rubbish. As a Premier customer you are entitled to a PRM (Personal Relationship Manager)for whom you should have direct email and telephone contact details. I cannot speak too highly of their service, and their call centre in Edinburgh is staffed by young people who, although not “hard core” bankers, are nevertheless very polite and extremely helpful.

  2. Brian Turner says:

    Empty invective and ad hominem aside, being polite and helpful doesn’t make up for the fact that they fail to return service requests, and HSBC in general appears to care little about encouraging customer loyalty.

    I also used to have a PRM (Personal Relationship Manager), but they’ve since left the Edibrugh call centre, so instead of having a PRM I am now looked after by “Premier Direct” instead.

    As mentioned before, I think it’s an issue of customer care general to large banks in general. Certainly my experiences of business banking with Royal Bank of Scotland are hardly complimentary either. :)

  3. Mr Shah says:

    Re: HSBC Bad customer service

    I agree with the above article. The level of customer service is disgraceful. I think HSBC think because they are a massive bank they can get away by behaving like they don’t care about their customers.

    The only time you will receive any customer service or feedback from anyone, is if they are benefitting from you. For example I wanted to bring 50,000 over and put it into an instant savings account. I needed to open a new savings account with HSBC, so I spoke to customer services who stated someone from my local branch would call me to arrange an appointment. I received a call the next day from a lady at the branch asking if I wanted to switch my mortgage over. I simply answered no; I just want to open a savings account. She advised me that someone would call me the next day to open the account. I am still waiting for a call!!!!

    I used to work for Barclays and the sad fact of branch staff is that they are only willing to do something that will benefit them by increasing their points total for their bonuses. I know as soon the lady from my local HSBC branch realised I was not moving my mortgage over to HSBC she was not getting any commission and she did not even have the courtesy to arrange for someone else to call me to open a savings account which was all i required.

  4. Peter says:

    Not entirely relevant but the customer service in HSBC Canada is incredibly good. I’m not an HSBC Premier customer (yet) but I can still email and call a lady at my branch who knows all about me personally and deals with my requests. It’s really nice we even pass in the street sometimes and say hello.

    On the flip side bank charges in Canada are much higher.

    Back in the UK (I’m an expat) I bank with HSBC First Direct. Again excellent customer service. However not the individual service I get in Canada.

    All in all I really feel you get what you pay for in life. In the UK we don’t realise how lucky we are in a sense in that banking is so fabulously cheap.

    Ultimately though I do think it’s a little topsy tery that HSBC Premier’s programe wants to encourage rich customer’s by charging them LESS. I mean normally don’t companies try and identify rich customers and then find ways to charge them more with extra frills etc. ?

    Simply stated if they want their customers to be rich better to charge the POOR less so they stand a chance of becoming rich, no?

  5. Nick says:

    HSBC Premier service is pretty shoddy. I have a PRM, however it has taken them over a month to increase a credit card limit to cover a one-off purchase.

    The PRM only replies to e-mails after I have chased for a response and I agree has no interest if your needs do not result in an increased performance target.

    I will be moving bank. It is just a shame that my mortgage is fixed in for another 3 years, otherwise that would go with the rest of my banking (deposits, ISAs, share-dealing etc.).

  6. Wajid says:

    HSBC need to do spot checks on their call centres. It is true, it is a complete disgrace.

  7. Chris Kirtley says:

    I just closed my Premier accounts. It is a great relief after 2 years of constantly filling in forms and calling people. They advertise it as a global service but really it is just a cobbled together link between individual banks, all of whom have their own rules and idiosyncracies. The electronic banking is dreadful – it feels like 1960s software. As you rightly, say, their customer service is non-existant and they seem to have no interest in getting feedback. All in all, it seems that the only thing you get for your money is a cup of coffee and read of a UK newspaper!

  8. Ian Cook says:

    As an ex relationship manager with HSBC, it’s all about how many profitable leads you can generate. All the caring experienced relationship managers are moving out. it’s all about the shareholders but then again it is a public company.

  9. MalP says:

    I tried to claim on the Premier account travel insurance for travel within the UK. Firstly the excess is £50 per person travelling (not per claim): secondly, you are covered if a ferry or airport is closed, but not if your problem is snow and ice on the roads (ie, if you aren’t using a ferry/airport, or if the ferry/airport is open, but you can’t get there.). Probably standard insurance stuff, but best to be aware

  10. Jack says:

    HSBC car insurance is really a nightmare. Even cancel it need pay 195 pounds without any discussion.

  11. Richard says:

    HSBC is awful for customer service. The bank staff know little and only go and look on the website. As for ringing them, well its only a matter of getting through to someone in india reading from scripts. Its awful, you cant have a conversation because they just read stock answers back.

  12. Dr. Khuzaie says:

    At least most of you got a service initially, upon opening the account I transferred my funds from the other banks for I was promised higher returns; I still haven’t received the debt cards yet, my PRM isn’t answering; but if I was lucky she will and give me vague misleading information… Their call center is THE worst of all… I called them asking who’s the person in charge of a certain branch for I wasn’t even offered to sit down, and all what I got was “there’s nothing we can do”… All the promised emergency services and proper assistance is just a lie, I have contacted everyone from the regional management to the security guards… No use!

    If a so-called premier client gets such a service, I wonder who does the saving account clients are treated!