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UMB customers encounter problems with computer banking

By CHARLES R.T. CRUMPLEY - The Kansas City Star
Date: 06/28/99 22:15

Jack Casner figured something was wrong when he couldn't get UMB to answer the phone so he could get help with new software that's supposed to let him bank by computer.

In frustration, he finally put aside the local UMB phone number and dialed an 800 number that was provided. He got a quick answer, all right. He got a cooing come-on from a phone sex operation.

"That's when I knew something was really wrong," the Raytown man said.

Indeed, its lineup of bank-by-computer products hasn't exactly been glitch-free, UMB Financial Corp. acknowledged Monday. The Kansas City bank holding company rolled out the three offerings to the public early last week, but customers of UMB's old computer products were given the software earlier.

Some customers complain that they don't like the new programs and can't reach the company by phone to answer questions.

UMB said it was so overrun by customers calling to order and to seek help with at least one of the new products that it added three technicians by late last week. On Monday it scrambled to add 10 more. UMB originally had thought that its staff of seven support technicians could handle the load.

There is some good news for UMB's bank-by-computer customers sitting on hold: The company is waiving all July fees for the new bank-by-computer products, said Dennis Triplett, a divisional executive vice president.

Triplett wouldn't reveal how many customers had signed up for the new products, other than to say the number was far more than expected.

But that's not all the trouble UMB has had with the new products. There was that little matter with the 800 number.

What happened? UMB spokesman Roger Hoadley explained that a new letterhead that was supposed to accompany some of the new software products incorrectly listed one of UMB's local phone numbers. The phone number's 816 area code was incorrectly replaced with the "800" digits. When the local number is dialed with the 800 prefix instead of the area code, the caller hears a sexually charged suggestion to dial a 900 number.

Hoadley said the errant letterhead was discovered and corrected, but not before a few dozen went out the door.

The new products are updates of old programs designed to let UMB customers with computers pay up to 20 bills a month for a $5.95 fee.

One program is called OnlineDirect. A more elaborate version is called PC Banking with Microsoft Money. Both allow customers with Internet service to do their banking at home. Those two offerings are going "reasonably well," Triplett said.

The most troublesome has been what's called UMB PC Direct. It allows customers without Internet service to dial up UMB directly.

Customers are having trouble installing the software and using it. Triplett said that the program was fine but that some customers had old computers.

"We found out that loading software is sometimes more difficult for some people than others, and on some PCs more difficult than others," he said.

To help, UMB on Monday sent out a five-page "quick reference guide" to give customers clearer help and to spell out what kind of computer system is needed.

And the new system does cost $5.95 a month vs. $6.95 for the old one.

"I'd gladly pay $10 a month if they'd keep the old system in," Casner said.

To reach Charles R.T. Crumpley, call (816) 234-4454 or send e-mail to ccrumpley@kcstar.com

All content 1999 The Kansas City Star

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