‘When mum died, Lloyds made the grief even harder to bear’: Our writer’s moving account of why big firms MUST change the insensitive way they treat bereaved families.
When Victoria Bischoff’s mother Julie died in April, Lloyds were unhelpful
They made her call automated service and sent computer-generated letters
An insensitive customer service adviser asked a series of intrusive questions and didn’t know the rules about credit card debts
Other organisations such as the local council were much better
Mum had been a customer at Lloyds Bank for around 25 years. The staff in her local branch in Coventry knew her well, so they had recognised me the moment I came through the door.
The woman behind the counter went pale. ‘You’re Julie’s daughter, aren’t you?’ she said. ‘I know what you’re here to say.’
They’d been aware that Mum had been fighting cancer. She died at home on April 22, aged 58.
I’d come in to let them know that her current account, credit card and home insurance would all need cancelling.
‘I’m sorry,’ said the woman at the counter. ‘We can’t do that here. You need to call the bereavement team and make an appointment to come in with the right paperwork.’
Back at Mum’s painfully quiet three-bedroom terrace house – the home where I grew up with my sister, Stephanie, who had died from cancer 12 months earlier – I called Lloyds.
I couldn’t find specific details for the local branch on the internet and so ended up calling a general customer services number.
A lot of button-pressing and tapping account details into an automated service followed before I could speak to a human. I was so frustrated and upset that I kept hitting the wrong phone buttons – adding unnecessary time to the whole process.
I then had to wait on hold while the man at the other end called the branch I had visited earlier to book an appointment for the following week.
But this half-an-hour of annoyance wasn’t the end of the matter.
A week later, I returned to Mum’s house. We’d had her funeral and I’d been back to my flat in London for a few days.
On her doormat was a pile of post – and among the cards of condolence was a letter from Lloyds. It was addressed to my mum, Mrs J. Bischoff.
Inside, it read: ‘Dear Mrs Bischoff, Thank you for arranging to come in and see us. Here are the details of your meeting with us.’ It continued: ‘There are so many ways you can bank with us. You can call us, visit any of our branches, view our website or download our mobile banking app on your mobile phone or tablet… We’re here to help.’
This, of course, was just a computer-generated letter. In any other situation, it would rank as a mere admin error.
But it’s sloppy and thoughtless.
My uncle and I laughed it off. I know banking technology has come on in the past few years – but who knew that it extended beyond the grave?
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