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Secret IFA: Provider ‘helplines’ are a waste of time

Secret IFA

Why do some companies make it so difficult for people to navigate their phone network? I seem to spend more time finding the right person to talk to than I do actually talking to them.

Actually that last part isn’t quite true. I spend a considerable amount of time talking to people. The trouble is they often tell me they can’t do what I’m asking them to. That’s probably because I’m asking them to take a long walk off a short pier.

Today is a typical day, and I’ve been chasing a pension transfer as part of a sharing order. But when I finally tracked down someone to talk to at the receiving scheme, I discovered (yet again) that they didn’t really know what I was asking for. So she handed me over to someone else. Someone who had been on a PFL course – Pensions as a Foreign Language.

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But my joy was short lived because, although she’d sent the forms to the transferring scheme several weeks earlier, she had now washed her hands of it. According to the system, she wasn’t due to chase it until week six, and no amount of nagging on my part was going to change that.

How long does it take to receive papers and process a transfer, I asked? It was a rhetorical question but she answered anyway –“anything up to a year”, she said in all seriousness.

By now it was me who was ready for a long walk. Instead I decided I would call the transferring scheme to hurry things along. But that was easier said than done. Actually I fell at the first hurdle and called the wrong office. The office I called was the one listed on their website and printed on their application form. Silly me, I needed to contact the unlisted one. It was obvious really.

Once I discovered my mistake I called them and found myself speaking to another pensions rookie. This one had not yet been on a PFL course – what is the point of sticking inexperienced people on a helpdesk where all they can do is talk slowly for 20 minutes?

Anyway, the bottom line was they haven’t got the papers because they’d been sent to the wrong office. But here we were two weeks later, and the papers still hadn’t moved from one office to the other. What was going on? Was someone physically walking the file 50 miles across country?

If only this was an isolated incident. But there are thousands of advisers or their assistants wasting precious hours trying to talk to the right person within a product provider. Every wasted minute is a minute they cannot spend talking to the people that they really need to talk to – clients.

Product providers should make it their mission to ensure advisers spend as little time as possible talking to them, and as much time as possible talking to the people we are supposed to be here to help.