Bank of Ireland intends to hang up on customer queries

BoI staff will soon be prohibited from handling everyday business over the phone

Bank of Ireland: After February 13th, the banks says, “more complex account-related queries will still be facilitated through the call-centre”.

Bank of Ireland: After February 13th, the banks says, “more complex account-related queries will still be facilitated through the call-centre”.


Need to learn your bank balance or find out what the last three transactions on your account are? Bank of Ireland customers will no longer be able to ask bank employees these questions over the phone as BoI pares back the services it offers over the phone and switch customers to automated or digital channels.

The change is part of the bank’s strategy of focusing on innovative digital offerings, but may be of concern to some customers who feel more comfortable speaking with a person.

From February 13th, customers of Bank of Ireland will not be able to phone their local branch or the bank’s call centre for everyday inquiries. The bank, which is still 14 per cent owned by the state, has begun informing callers to its phone lines that branches and call centres will no longer be able to handle queries related to standard balance and transactions, coin orders, and foreign currency orders.

According to a BoI spokeswoman, customers contacting a branch looking for standard balance checks and transaction information, as well as looking to order foreign currency, will instead be redirected either to the phone self-service option, where they can find out the information through an automated service, or to the bank’s personal banking website, 365 online.

“More complex account-related queries will still be facilitated through the call-centre,” the spokeswoman said, adding that “vulnerable and elderly customers” will be able to call through to speak with an employee as usual.

Customers will also be to drop into a branch for transaction information and foreign currency, “where this service is in place”, she said.

Reducing numbers

Figures from BoI’s June results show the bank typically fields some 830,000 service calls a month. This number will likely be reduced if the bank cuts down on the types of queries it handles over the phone.

It appears that BOI is currently the only bank to restrict inquiries over the phone. Permanent TSB, for example, says that in addition to offering automated and digital options, customers can also call the bank’s Open24 contact centre to speak to someone about everyday banking issues.

Ulster Bank says that when you ring a branch you are patched through to the bank’s telephony centre, where you can speak to someone about balance inquiries and suchlike.

KBC Bank says customers can ring its call centre or one of its 15 hubs to talk to someone. “We prefer not to prescribe how they wish to access or contact us,”KBC said.

AIB said customers can ring a customer service agent who will deal with their day-to-day banking queries.

Like all banks, BoI, which operates around 250 branches across the country, has worked to cut costs across the branch network by increasing the number of tasks that can be automated or digitalised.

Tablet banking

Last year BoI launched several new digital options, including credit card applications through its mobile banking app and loan applications through tablet banking.

In November 2015, the bank announced it would impose severe restrictions on the amounts customers could lodge or withdraw over the counter. The decision was greeted with opprobrium, and the bank later said that “vulnerable customers, together with those elderly customers who are not comfortable using self-service channels or other technology solutions” would still be assisted by branch staff.

The approach is paying off; according to the bank, more than seven in 10 BoI customers are digitally active, with 440,000 customers now banking via their smartphones. Moreover, more than 70 per cent of customers now use self-service options in branch, up from 9 per cent in 2011. Overall, counter transactions now account for less than 4 per cent of total retail transactions.