E*Trade – when customer experience and IT fail

Davy Adams

Davy Adams is the Managing Director of IDG Australia, publisher of Computerworld and CIO.

Sometimes IT fails. And when that happens, that’s when the customer experience really kicks in. A perfect example of this is E*Trade Australia.

My self-managed superannuation fund (SMSF) has shareholdings through E*Trade. In April, I received a notification that E*Trade had informed those shareholdings they should deposit their dividends into my low-interest E*trade bank account, rather than my high interest ANZ account.

I had never asked E*Trade to do that, so I contacted E*Trade and asked them to change it back.

E*Trade’s vaguely apologetic e-mail response read:

“Mr Davy [sic], we are aware of this existing technical issue and I sincerely apologise for the inconvenience.

“I can assure you that our IT department are aware of the issue and are moving as quickly as possible to restore the settings.

“For the time being, to ensure the funds are not deposited into your E*TRADE account, may I ask that you contact the relevant share registries to update the bank account details.”

Aside from addressing me as “Mr Davy” (not my surname), E*Trade decided that the problem was actually mine to deal with, not theirs, and I should contact each of my shareholdings individually to fix the error.

I pointed out to E*Trade that if it could change my account details in the first place, surely it could change it back – right? Apparently not.

E*Trade replied:

“This occurred due to a ‘technical switch’ whereby the specific function on your account was changed from ‘Other’ to ‘Bank Account’. I can certainly appreciate your frustration on the process of this change and needing to contact the share registries of your preferred bank account.”

I pressed the point (in hindsight, foolishly) and E*Trade did indeed manage to change my account. But it changed it to an account that didn’t actually exist. Hey, it’s only a SMSF, why worry about getting numbers right, eh?

At that point I resigned myself to contacting the shareholdings myself and updating my account details. Because, you know, crazy me likes bank accounts to exist.

Unfortunately the problem didn’t end there. It turns out the account E*Trade uses for my transactions and the account it provides for dividends are in different fields. But E*Trade changed them both originally without my consent, knowledge or advising me.

I again contacted E*Trade and asked it to change the accounts back to the correct, original account. The one that actually existed.

And here’s where the customer experience went from the merely appalling to the really, really appalling. I was asked to fill in a form to change my bank account back to what it was when I originally signed up. Good governance I suppose? Except E*Trade was happy to change it for the dividends. So E*Trade kinda, sorta has governance and processes – sometimes, maybe.

Look, we all know IT systems sometimes fail us. It’s a part of modern life. But how firms manage the aftermath is what makes the difference.

Have you had similar issues where IT and customer service have failed?

Tags: customer service, E*Trade

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