Wealth Blog

Meet Olivia, the HSBC robot

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 July, 2013, 6:02pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 July, 2013, 6:02pm

At last, an HSBC tale with a happy ending. A Hong Kong HSBC customer stationed overseas wrote about his attempt to transfer funds online, only to have the security device freeze with "01-" on the screen.

“I'm sitting in rural Indonesia trying to transfer money to pay my accountant - HSBC to HSBC account,” he explains.

“My security key freezes. Pressing various buttons does nothing, so I go to HSBC online help, where I encounter a lady called Olivia, who can apparently help me, online.” Olivia, he adds is the “Virtual Agent that has been optimized for screen readers.” In other words, an online robot. She lives at: http://www.hsbc.co.uk/1/2/internet-banking-support/secure-key-troublesho...

He types his questions "Security device frozen showing 01-. Not turning off automatically. Anything I can do?"

The lovely Olivia responds: "Unfortunately your query is slightly too complex for me to understand. Please ask me again using a single sentence, bearing in mind I work best when I am asked one question at a time."

He obliges: "Security device frozen showing 01-. Not turning off automatically."

The lovely Olivia is still baffled: "Unfortunately your query is slightly too complex for me to understand. Please ask me again using a single sentence, bearing in mind I work best when I am asked one question at a time."

He simplifies his question further: "Security device frozen showing 01-"

Olivia repeats her mantra.

He tries yet again: “Security device frozen.”

Olivia: “Sorry, I didn't understand your question. Please could you rephrase it?”

Meanwhile, the security device is - still frozen. Exasperated, he tried to email the bank on their Personal Banking website. After pressing "Go", he gets the message:

"Your request cannot be processed due to the following error(s): Message contains invalid character. Please re-enter. Please make the changes and submit the form again."

But it failed to tell him what the invalid character was. So he tried to figure out which character was invalid. “Eventually I discovered that HSBC - in its infinite wisdom - does not allow you to use a hyphen in an email. Who would have thought it?”


When In doubt, call

Finally, he called the hotline - and they were very helpful. “But of course at vast cost, as I waited five minutes for the not terribly warm line to answer.”

They promised to send a new security device to his nearest HSBC branch in Bandung – to be picked up. “This seemed safer than trying to explain my very complicated address.”

Unfortunately, he could not complete the call as the line dropped out and he was unable to re-contact them.

Meanwhile, this column contacted the bank and Hong Kong HSBC called him. “Not sure how they got my number – but they assured me that the new security device would be sent the next day and they would call me when it arrived for me to pick up. So, the SCMP’s kind words have obviously had an effect.”

When I emailed HSBC on his behalf, their representative promised to send him a replacement security token/device and explained that Olivia was maintained by the UK. “I’ll send a note to them so they are aware of customer feedback,” the spokes lady said.

The customer in question will not be seeking Olivia’s help again.

“How stupid can they be to have this robot - I believe the term is avatar? - which can obviously handle nothing,” he said. “Olivia - I think - is a robot on a website - an attempt at a sophisticated FAQ - and therefore presumably accessible to anyone. If I recall correctly - I got to her/it by googling something like "problems with HSBC security devices" or "frozen HSBC security device".

From now on, he’ll aim for the human touch. “It's getting to the human being that's the problem. What I now do is simply go to the lost card number on the menu - that always gets you to a real person, who will redirect the call.”