Update: Fraud Alert! October 06, 2006
Warning: If you happen to be ready to contact a person named Wang Yang Lee or other persons in ICBC that you have won a lottery, please STOP now! It seems to be a serious fraud. Check here for more information.
Disclaimer: What I wrote here only represents my personal opinion based on my limited experiences with the bank mentioned. It should not be regarded as a real reflection of the overall service level of the bank.
Let me tell you my story of ICBC. By the way, you may know the theory that an unsatisfied customer will tell at least 20 of his friends about the bad experience? I am the unsatisfied customer and I believe at least 50 persons will read this article – I am the powerful dissatisfied customer, aren’t I?
Counter Service. I often use the most crowded ICBC Tian Yao Qiao Rd. Branch. The good thing is, they have a Q-matic queue management system at the door. You can press a button to get a small piece ticket telling you how many people are waiting in line before you. The average number was around 50. Once I got a ticket with 120 people waiting before me while there were only two windows open! It often costs my whole noon break to wait there. Maybe this is a good sign of the heavy business volume of the bank from another point of view. Anway, it is one of the largest bank in China. Also, long line not only happens in ICBC. I also see long lines in my favorite China Merchant Bank.
My friend Willie told me that this never happens in U.S. since people will just go online to transfer money and to pay their bills. This is not the case in Shanghai yet. ICBC has its self-service facilities, telephone bank system and web bank system in place. They must have thrown millions of dollars into the systems. However, poor usability of the web bank are barriers preventing more people to try the service. I think I am among the most skillful web users. Even I gave it after attempting to use their online service since I don’t know how to continue. I doubt whether normal user like my mom would possibility utilize the system well. By the way, did the web developers know that if I didn’t configure my browser to send ZH-CN language code to the server, all the characters it returned are all question marks which are not readable at all?
I need to point out again here, that this is my personal experience. My experience didn’t prevent ICBC winning the World Best Online Bank award by The Banker. Why? I didn’t find a reason so far.
ICBC was the pioneer to try out non-password protected credit card. Its international credit card follows the international tradition, that only signature is needed and customers don’t need to input a PIN. Almost all credit cards from other banks in China require customer to key in a PIN to pay. Unexpectedly, this innovation brought trouble to ICBC and to card holders like me. Tellers at supermarkets are not trained to use this “new?card so they insisted me to enter a pin before I use my card. It is wired situation that I don’t have a pin. I don’t know the pin myself. It took quite some time to explain that this is an international credit card and it does not require a pin to use. Later, we found out the trick that keying any random 6-digit number on the keyboard will do the work. So less argument for me and time was saved. Recently, ICBC have to step one step back and added pin protection to all its credit card again. It proved again that customers in China have so different customer behaviors and something works internationally will not always work in China.
I also encountered several time the teller told me I cannot withdraw the money because the computer system is down. That was annoying. They have pre-printed, well decorated notice boards saying “Computer is down. Service paused” at every counter. It seems the computer-down is their daily routine and the utilization of the notice boards is high. I argued with them that why the computer system goes down so frequently. The young man at the right-most counter of the Tian Yao Qiao branch simply gave me an are-you-stupid look and said: “It is the computer that is down. Why yelling at ME?”
I cancelled my International Credit Card last October. Surprisingly, they returned the money on the card was as late as mid Jan, 2004. They used the 3 month to go through lengthy process to refund the 200 RMB annual fee (which they charged by mistake) to my bank account before they can refund me the large amount of deposit I made. I anxiously checked with them every week to get my money back.
Well. There is still something I like for ICBC. The number of outlets is the highest among all banks and I can always find a ICBC bank. Their Q-matic system is cool. Their telephone service hotline 95588 is good. Also, it is the issuer of my first international credit card.
OK. That is my personal experience that explains why I will give a 5 out of 1-9 rating system for ICBC. To be fair to ICBC, I want anyone read the report to know to the banks I use most are Bank of China, China Merchant Bank and ICBC. ICBC are still a good bank, but it happened I was shown its worse side to me.
Thanks for WilliamW to give me suggestions regarding this article