Handling change: Could Tesco Bank learn from First Direct – and Govt?

By Tony Collins

Tesco Bank has learned the hard way what some government and NHS users have discovered: that the first rule of managing big IT-enabled change is to invest in lots of extra staff to cope with the unexpected.

A spokesman for Tesco Bank said yesterday that its services are back to normal. Customers can access their accounts and the help-desk is answering calls normally. He was not aware of any “issues”.

Not all Tesco Bank’s  customers agree that the service is fully operational.  Some are having problems closing their accounts and when they succeed they are being sent hand-written cheques, which is, perhaps, an archaic practice for an on-line bank. Was this part of the original design?

Martin Bryant who has had a Tesco account since 1997 emailed Campaign4Change to say he was having problems closing his account.

“I’m still waiting for my money, and spend an hour a day on the phone to Tesco’s unbelievably poor helpline.”

Eventually he persuaded Tesco Bank to close his account.

Said Bryant: “The new computer system does not allow me to make transfers to my non-Tesco bank account … The help-desk staff  do not know what they are doing: promises to ring back are not kept, and it took me several hours over three days to close my accounts and get my money transferred to my First Direct account.

“I only succeeded because I rang so often I finally encountered the only member of staff capable of actually doing something –  so thank you Alison.” He said Tesco should “stick to selling cabbages”.

Bryant is among those left unhappy by Tesco Bank’s troubled transfer of about 900,000 accounts from Royal Bank of Scotland systems to its own. These are some of the comments in the past few days on Martin Lewis’ MoneySavingExpert.com website:

“I still don’t have the [new] PIN, and having tried to call Tesco Bank again tonight (three times) i have not managed to speak to anyone as the lines are still too busy. I can’t believe Tesco Bank have the cheek to claim that the issue is somehow resolved. I hope the regulator takes a very good look at Tesco Banks’ conduct …”


“One month on and there are still problems. I have been waiting nine days for my temporary PIN. I want to move my money but am unable to do so. No interest from Tesco. You just have to wait 10 working days before we will do anything about it. That’s two weeks with no access to my money… All I want is my money out!”


“Still locked out as well – what a shambolic mess. Apparently the temporary PINS that were promised to be sent out on 8th and 9th July were not sent out. The follow-up temporary PIN allegedly sent out 14th July still has not arrived.

They say to allow up to five working days, so tomorrow is my deadline before account closure. Clearly from the conversation today they still have a great many very angry customers, unable to access their accounts after over four weeks.”


“I hope the shambles is over for me? After 2 weeks of being messed about I gave up on Tesco. No PIN, no letters, no clue.  Asked to close the account and was transferred through to some one who was clearly becoming a expert at this.

“After security and a call back they will send a cheque……won’t transfer it back to me electronically…mind you with their systems can’t blame them for not taking the risk?

I await the post with baited breath. Still one lesson learnt…Don’t bank with Tesco.”


Learning from First Direct – and central government

First Direct is regarded in customer satisfaction surveys as the bank customers would most recommend.

In 2011, as in other years, the UK Customer Service Index, which surveyed 26,000 people, put First Direct top of the UK banks.

Like Tesco Bank, First Direct unwittingly locked customers out of their accounts when implementing large-scale change. It happened in 2007.

First Direct got away with the problems without damage to its reputation largely, it seems, because it had enough extra service desk staff talking through with thousands of callers the steps they needed to take to update their browser. Some browser versions were incompatible with First Direct’s upgraded system.

In contrast Tesco Bank was caught short and customers had to wait an hour or more before getting through on the helpline – or giving up. It also appears that when people did get through, some of the extra staff Tesco Bank belatedly drafted in did not have access to customer accounts.

NHS Trusts and the NPfIT local service providers BT and CSC have learned the hard way that large-scale IT implementations require extra staff at go-live, and several weeks after, to cope with system and software bugs, work-rounds and end-users not understanding new ways of working.

It’s a trap one would have thought Tesco Bank would have avoided.  You can’t cut staff before large-scale IT-enabled change – and perhaps not soon afterwards either.


Lessons from an IT crisis – Tesco Bank.

Waitrose apologises to website customers.

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