Crazy Customer Service, or Creepy Invasive Sales Call?

Because of the increasing insanity of some American banks and the random charging of fees like we owe them their current profit margin, I'm looking for another place for my money. After some research online, it looked like I had a couple of good choices that had no fee checking with Bill Pay, online access, and a robust mobile app. I decided to give Schwab a try, and opened an account and began moving my "business" account over. (EDIT: It appears as if most banks are backing away from this service fee, my current bank included…the below experience ensures that I’m still moving my accounts).

Well, that went so well that after a couple of weeks I was ready to make the move and move my personal account as well. The one non-standard bit about Schwab is that because they are primarily an investment company, they require a brokerage account to be attached to the checking account. You don’t have to fund it, you don’t ever have to do anything with it…it’s just the way they’ve structured things. What wasn’t clear to me was whether it was a 1-to-1 relationship. That is, you had to have a brokerage account for every checking account, or whether you could have multiple checking accounts hanging off of one brokerage.

So in an effort to get the answer, I signed in to my existing account and started poking around the “create a new account” link. It appeared like it was a 1-to-1 thing, and I wasn’t sure how having multiple brokerage accounts would work, so I just closed that browser window and thought to myself “I’ll give them a call sometime and ask”. I wasn’t in a hurry, so it wasn’t no big deal to me.

Cue two days later, I got a phone call from someone at Schwab. He left a message on my phone letting me know that they had noticed that I stopped part of the way through the account creation process, and was curious if I’d had problems or had any questions that he could answer. He was very polite and professional and left his direct phone number in case I wanted to follow up. I called back, and he answered the phone in 4 rings. I introduced myself, and he was able to pull up my account and the record of calling me in seconds. None of the typical “let me put you on hold while I look this up” or “can you verify the following 57 pieces of information for me by pushing buttons on the phone when you could very well be calling and driving at the same time” stuff. Nope, just a simple human interaction. And he answered my questions thoroughly and without trying to sell me a single thing that I wasn’t asking about.

Let’s examine this from the POV of a library, shall we? I guarantee that there isn’t a library anywhere that’s monitoring failed searches in their catalog and following up with the individuals to see if they can help. Moreover, I think most librarians would consider this a breach of professional ethics, as it would require tying searches to a person and seeing what books they were searching for.

It was exceptional customer service, and it was performed effectively and efficiently. It set a new level of expectation for me that I’m not sure other services will live up to. Certainly they haven’t in my past experience. So I’m moving my accounts, and am happy to do so. Excellent work, Schwab. Now don’t screw it up. 🙂

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By griffey

Jason Griffey is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at NISO, where he works to identify new areas of the information ecosystem where standards expertise is useful and needed. Prior to joining NISO in 2019, Jason ran his own technology consulting company for libraries, has been both an Affiliate at metaLAB and a Fellow and Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and was an academic librarian in roles ranging from reference and instruction to Head of IT at the University of TN at Chattanooga.

Jason has written extensively on technology and libraries, including multiple books and a series of full-periodical issues on technology topics, most recently AI & Machine Learning in Libraries and Library Spaces and Smart Buildings: Technology, Metrics, and Iterative Design from 2018. His newest book, co-authored with Jeffery Pomerantz, will be published by MIT Press in 2024.

He has spoken internationally on topics such as artificial intelligence & machine learning, the future of technology and libraries, decentralization and the Blockchain, privacy, copyright, and intellectual property. A full list of his publications and presentations can be found on his CV.
He is one of eight winners of the Knight Foundation News Challenge for Libraries for the Measure the Future project (, an open hardware project designed to provide actionable use metrics for library spaces. He is also the creator and director of The LibraryBox Project (, an open source portable digital file distribution system.

Jason can be stalked obsessively online, and spends his free time with his daughter Eliza, reading, obsessing over gadgets, and preparing for the inevitable zombie uprising.

One reply on “Crazy Customer Service, or Creepy Invasive Sales Call?”

I’m curious to know why you chose to go with another bank, rather than a credit union? I’m considering making a change myself, so I’d like to hear about your decision making process.

Also, I do think this is excellent customer service, and I agree, our professional ethics can get in the way of us providing the kind of customer service our patrons might actually want. What can we do about that? Allow patrons to opt in? Try to make more nuanced decisions about what personal data we use? We’re using in the library, but not sharing it, and I think that’s what concerns people the most. If they know that we’re a confidential source, and no one besides the librarian is going to know what they’re looking into it, maybe they would feel confident enough in our privacy policies that we can provide better service…

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