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How Sainsburys Bank lost a customer

Blog: Blog by Janne Ohtonen

All this started 4 weeks ago, when I saw an appealing advertisement for getting a Sainsburys Credit Card with 18 months 0% purchases offer… Little did I know how bad choice that will end up being already before even ever getting that card!

This case story is a great example of companies offering such a bad customer experiences that they end up losing clients just because their processes are built their own internal processes and rules in mind, forgetting the end-customer. Today there are so many credit card operators and competition is hard that these companies should all they can do to ease up the on-boarding process. Instead, Sainsburys Bank has decided to make the on-boarding as difficult as possible. Maybe that is the reason why they have to offer potential new clients 18 months 0% purchases, so that they could get any?

This is how the process went and and ended up for Sainsburys Bank to lose a new potential client. 

I saw the advertisement of that credit card somewhere. Then I went online to see that how I could apply for the card. It was possible to do the application online, which was convenient. It took me about 20 minutes to complete the application. So I did and started to wait for their decision whether they will give me the card or not.

Couple of weeks later I got a mail from Sainsburys Bank saying that my application has been approved. The letter also stated that I need to deliver them certified copies of my electricity bill and passport. This is when everything started to fall in part from Sainsbury’s side.

My first challenge was that I don’t have any paper copies of my electricity, gas, etc. bills because I have changed them all into electronic invoicing and they don’t mail paper copies anymore (including bank statements also). And Sainsburys accepts only certified copy of ORIGINAL PAPER STATEMENTS, not electronic ones. There’s no way to round it since all my bills are electronic ones. I was instructed that I can just print my electric bill out and claim it to be original paper copy and it will be fine. This instruction came from Sainsburys itself. In other words they were advising customer on how to round their own rigid rules…

Sainsburys Bank accepts only certification done by another bank. They do not have their own branches to go in to. Now, I thought that this is easy, I will just go to my bank and ask them to give me one. Well, that didn’t work out. They told me that they have stopped giving certifications of passports, bills, etc. 3 years ago due to some fraud cases. I thought that this may now get a bit tricky since I can’t get it from my own bank.

In total I went to HSBC, Natwest, Virgin Money, Metro Bank and none of them agreed to give me a certified copy of my passport and self-printed electricity bill. All them said the same thing as my bank, they do not give certified copies anymore.

What can I do? 

Well, I thought that I will go out and ask from a solicitor if they could give me a copy. The cheapest one I found was £35. I think that’s a bit steep price for taking a photocopy of a paper and putting a stamp on it. So, I decided not to take that route.

Then I found out that Post Office is offering certified copies with fairly affordable price. They take only £8,50 for copies and you get 3 of them with that money. That’s great, I thought! I took the copies, attached them with a letter to Sainsburys Bank and sent it out. So far I have spent over 4 hours getting all this done in total… What a waste of time!

I waited and Sainsburys Bank get on mailing me the same exact letter than on the first time saying that I need to send a copy of my utility bill and passport. I thought that their IT system has messed up and is sending those letters until they receive my papers. Some time later I received another letter from Sainsburys Bank thanking for the documents I had sent earlier and saying that they will come back to me with my fresh credit card soon. Looks like a good situation for me, right?

Well, for some reason the card didn’t come but I did keep receiving same standard letter stating that I need to deliver my documents (which I had sent and already received back from Sainsburys also). My thinking was still that there’s a mistake in their system and I will get the card soon… Little did I know.

Several weeks and 4 letters later I decided to call them. Their number costs me 40 pence per minute since I don’t have a landline and mobile operators take extra charge to call their number. I still called them. I was greeted with over 5 minutes long automatic recording that I had to listen to. At the end of the recording the system said “there’s a long queue of over 4 minutes currently, we advice you to call us back some other, less busy time”. That sounded a bit weird… I decided to wait for that 4 minutes rather than call back later. Luckily that recording didn’t say that my call was important to them, because it clearly wasn’t!

This horrible customer experience just kept on going when person called Anthony answered. He said that they cannot accept my documents since they were certified by Post Office and not by another bank. I friendly explained this same story as here to him and told him that there is no bank in London that will give me those certified copies since all of them had stopped doing it. Anthony was kind enough to tell me how he had no problems certifying his documents somewhere in Scotland in another bank. I suggested that it’s a bit too far to go to Scotland for me to get that done. He said that I need to choose whether I get those certified copies from a bank or not to receive the card.

Even though the discussion with Anthony was friendly, I asked for his manager. I thought he could understand my situation better. He promised to get the manager on the phone and put me on hold. I was on hold for couple of minutes and Anthony came back. He said the manager was too busy to discuss with me.

At this point it was already very clearly to me that Sainsburys Bank couldn’t care less for their new clients and I had lost my trust towards Sainsburys completely. 

Anthony said that they can give me Sainsburys vouchers that will reimburse the £35 solicitor fee that I would need to pay to get the copies from them. For me that was same as me spending that money in Sainsburys instead of solicitor. Kind offer but not good enough. I didn’t want to spend the time it would take me to find a solicitor, go there to get the copies, pay for them and wait for the Sainsburys vouchers to come in so that I can then go into a Sainsburys and spend them there… No, too much effort.

I asked Sainsburys Bank to cancel my application and I started writing this blog… It will be read by over 50,000 people by the time I am done with this. I have also promoted this post to over 20,000 people in social media. What do you think that is going to do for those people who thought about getting a credit card from Sainsburys?

What can we learn from this? 

We can learn a lot. First is that avoid Sainsburys Bank until they can figure out how to treat clients properly.

Second, customer experience and effort does matter. Even if you offer services that require approval from business side to become a customer, you still need to treat your clients respectfully and make sure your own incompetence, rigid processes and bad customer service won’t get on the way.

We can also learn that even though highly regulated industries like banking can still make sure that they don’t put customers through unnecessary pain.

Social media and blogs are a popular platform nowadays to share stories about companies who treat customers badly (or well). It matters more and more how you deal with your clients so that they do not feel mistreated so badly that they need to write blogs like this. Another thing is also than when they do, will your business know about it and do you have processes in place to do anything about it in a constructive way?

What happened afterwards?

Tesco was more than happy to accept those same Post Office certified copies of my papers that I received back from Sainsburys Bank. They also gave the same 18 months 0% purchases offer. I should have gone with them  to begin with!

Now, do you have similar experiences to this? 

Please share them in the comment field, we would love to hear from you!

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