My Friendly Bank

When Conal and I moved to San Andreas from Seattle, we wanted to choose a new bank. Our previous bank’s nearest location was an hour’s drive away. We don’t need to physically go to the bank all that often, but often enough to make that long of a drive unappetizing.

Our not-too-terribly scientific manner of choosing from the several banks with San Andreas locations involved walking in to each one, asking for a rundown of services and fees and a brochure, and seeing if we liked the atmosphere of the place. We did actually look at the brochures. A bit. Mostly, we wanted to enjoy our new bank as much as we had enjoyed the Lake Forest Park branch of Washington Mutual, which to us meant evaluating which outfit had the friendliest personalities and atmosphere.

Central State Credit Union won us over with their smiles and warm welcome. At a glance it appeared our accounting needs would be met with their services. We opened our accounts and began the process of moving our primary banking to CSCU.

I do nearly all our banking business online. Bone-headedly, I did not ask to see each bank’s online interface to find out if I would like it before we made our choice. Unfortunately, I did not like CSCU’s account interface very much. But by then, we had already set up our accounts. I figured I’d eventually get used to it.

Well, a few more technical issues popped up, and I considered changing banks again several times. Each time, however, I decided that the amazingly friendly and efficient service I got whenever I had a problem or a question was something that I enjoyed and valued very much.

Then things got really wacky.

I got a copy of Micosoft Money to help me track our spending and make tax time easier. Setting it up, I discovered that CSCU’s systems did not support the automagic downloading into Money that our other banking and financial institutions did. Downloading would be a manual process for CSCU accounts. Le sigh.

Then CSCU announced to customers late last fall that they were changing over to a new system in a few weeks. We would not have access to our accounts for several days, and after that we’d no longer have online access to any data from prior to the changeover. I was upset that I’d lose access to those records, and also irritated that I’d have to plan for a manual download at just the right time in order to catch all that historical data before it went offline. And I knew there would be some transactions occurring during the down time that I’d have to enter manually no matter what. At that point, I was beginning to wonder if we’d made a bad choice in our new bank.

After the changeover, I discovered there were indeed some transactions that I needed to enter into MS Money manually from my printed statement. I figured I’d get over that my irritation about that, too. I didn’t switch banks, and I mostly did get over my grouchies. Once I actually began downloading transactions after the changeover, however, I had another discouraging discovery. The new description format for each entry now resulted in something that looked like this:

Withdrawal #999999 %% Card 99 #9999 TREAT’S GENERAL 197 E. ST. CHARLES SAN ANDREAS CA

Now, MS Money, I was soon to find out to my continued irritation with all things financial, has space in its description field for 31 characters max, and it drops all but the first 31 characters in that field. So what I could download into Money looked like this:

Withdrawal #9999999 %% Card 99 #

Not very helpful in figuring out what the transaction was about. Prior to the changeover, the data had been presented with more informative text up front so that what Money downloaded was at least a little helpful.

At this point, I got totally bummed. Conal and I really like CSCU’s staff and friendly service. However, our trips to the physical bank are few, and missing the easy and dependable functionality of online systems and downloads from other banks finally got to me. I emailed our main contact at the bank (I won’t name her, here, because I haven’t asked her permission, but she knows who she is!) to tell her I was thinking of looking for a different bank, and why. She responded, as always, very quickly and professionally, and promised to check into the issue and let me know the outcome.

Shortly after that, I heard that she had discussed the matter with her manager and they were taking the matter up with corporate. Not long after that, she let us know that they were making a change to adjust the way the system presented the description information to make it easier to read. A few days after that, I could see the change in the system on new transactions.

Wow! I had presented my trouble, and these guys jumped right on it. It took just a few days, and all the while our contact kept us apprised of the status via email and phone calls. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised based on all the very helpful, prompt, friendly responses to my past questions, but this was a global change to their system, based on the request of a single customer. As a former manager of customer service for a large corporation, I was impressed and delighted with this level of personal attention and service.

The bigger banks may have shinier systems (due to huge IT staffs and costly infrastructure, I’m sure), but man, they got nothin’ on my small town, friendly bank for the fastest, awesomest, personalest service in the West. Here’s to ya, Central State Credit Union. I <3 you and I don’t plan on switching banks any time soon.

p.s. Boogers on Microsoft for putting such a chintzy description field in their software, which started all this nonsense in the first place.

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