NS&I – redefining customer service, but not in a good way
Those of you that don’t like my rants, stop reading now.
OK, you’ve got this far. I want to tell you about my recent experiences with attempting to buy premium bonds from NS&I. And before you all tell me it’s not a good investment, yes, I know that, but it’s a better investment than the lottery. And I bet most of you play that (I don’t). I’m also hopeful that my experience might serve as a warning to others before they manage to walk into the same customer service black hole that I’ve just stumbled into.
Up until 2 or 3 months ago, buying premium bonds online was really simple. All you needed was your holder’s number and a valid debit card. You went on their website and bought the bonds. Your certificate arrived in the post a few days later. Everyone’s happy.
But then, they introduced a new online system. First of all, registering on it was a pain. I now have in addition to my holder’s number a brand new and shiny NS&I number that is so long you simply can’t remember it. I also can’t remember the exact hoops I had to jump through to get my account set up, but it was pretty painful and involved various ‘phone calls, letters, forms that were too small to write on properly, pin numbers, security questions and very strict rules on passwords that were acceptable and those that were not. Anyway, I managed to jump through these hoops (I think it took me about a month all told) and got myself set up.
Tonight, I decided to attempt to buy a few more premium bonds. The site challenged me for my NS&I number. After messing around in my filing cabinet, I found it. It then wanted the 4th and 6th characters of my password. Now I work in computing so I know not to write my password down and leave it lying about. Unfortunately, it wasn’t one I could remember because of their rather strict rules on passwords. I went through the password reset routine instead. This involved answering questions on-screen and then NS&I ringing me via an automated system to ask for a number that had appeared on-screen (it was a good job I was at home!) The final act of their system was to tell me my new temporary password “was being sent to me”. I was then unceremoniously thrown off the website via a pop-up (not good practice). I then spent the next 10 minutes checking my email inbox before calling them to ask where my temporary password was. Apparently they send them out by post.
Sighing a little, I then asked if I could simply purchase my bonds by ‘phone instead. To which the answer was a resounding “no” – at least, not until they’d sent me my new password and me having logged in and reset it. This was despite them knowing who I was, having provided them with my name, address and holder’s number (they weren’t interested in the NS&I number for some strange reason). Apparently, if you’ve managed to lock yourself out of their online system then they can’t sell you anything by ‘phone because the two systems are very tightly linked. Their suggestion was that I made my way to the nearest Post Office and buy them over the counter as it could take a few days for my password to be finally reset.
I complained. They’ve given me a complaint number. They will acknowledge my complaint by letter in the next week. It could then take another 28 days to respond to it.
So much for customer service. NS&I have lost my custom for the foreseeable future. I’m off to buy lottery tickets instead.