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Many First Niagara customers have trouble after KeyBank switch

KeyBank worked Tuesday to resolve a problem some First Niagara customers encountered trying to access their online accounts, following the conversion to Key.

Some customers vented on social media about not being able to log into their accounts, and then being stuck waiting – in some cases three hours or even longer – for help from a customer contact center.

Key said the instructions for First Niagara customers to sign in on its website weren’t clear enough. As a result, customers who didn’t realize they were already signed in, were attempting to sign in again, said Gary Quenneville, Key’s upstate New York regional executive.

“So they’re trying to sign on for the first time and it’s locking it up,” Quenneville said. “We’ve tried to clarify those instructions so it’s more clear on exactly what path they should follow.”

Key increased staffing at its customer contact centers by about 350 people, anticipating higher call volume. “And that will help us to get caught up, but of course when everybody calls in at 8:30 [a.m.], it definitely is overwhelming,” Quenneville said.

Quenneville said the problem was not a system flaw, saying the bank had moved 1 million First Niagara customers’ accounts on to its systems. Online banking service for First Niagara customers who were switched to Key actually went live Monday afternoon. The bank had been targeting Tuesday morning.

Key tried to ease the transition by allowing First Niagara customers to retain their IDs and passwords. As of late Tuesday morning, KeyBank said 75 percent of First Niagara online clients had successfully signed on to their Key accounts.

[Related: 'Very high call volume' delays frustrating KeyBank customers]

“When they get in there online, they can see their balances, they can see things linked up,” Quenneville said. “It’s all sort of how you want to measure success, but for us, it’s very successful.”

But some of the 25 percent who were unable to sign in made themselves heard.

“The transition process apparently was not tested well enough and I have been locked out of the online banking and cannot get back on without talking to KeyBank,” said Brad Van Riper, a Gerry resident. “Seems like everyone that I have heard from is having a similar issue.”

Rocco Maiorano of Warminster, Pa., was stuck on hold for help before giving up after five hours. He finally checked on his account balance the old-fashioned way: by visiting a branch. By late Tuesday afternoon, he could finally could access his online account.

He called the day “an overall frustrating experience. The lack of preparedness was very disappointing. Hopefully, it’s resolved and better moving forward.”

Quenneville said Key was working to fix online access issues.

“It’s a big acquisition, and we feel like we’re in a good place if we can continue to solve for this problem and get that [help line] wait time down to what’s acceptable,” he said.

Aside from the online conversion, more than 300 former First Niagara branches reopened as Key locations on Tuesday morning, and all First Niagara ATMs were switched, as well.

At the corner of Elmwood Avenue and Utica Street, customers were getting accustomed to banking at a Key branch, instead of a First Niagara location.

“It’s been smooth,” said Tony Trusso, owner of the Lenox Hotel. “Our deposits went well.”

Dorothy Sands-Carboni, the branch manager at Elmwood and Utica for about 16 years, has gone through bank transitions before. She worked for Marine Midland, HSBC and First Niagara before joining Key.

Before the latest change, Sands-Carboni and her staff members reached out to customers, letting them know what to expect.

“They loved the fact that Key bought the [customers’] routing number, the account number, that from a customer perspective, they did not have to do a thing,” she said. “They were happy the staff stayed the same, and this branch was going to be open, that they wouldn’t have to go down the street.”

Key has assigned about three “buddies” – Key employees from other locations – temporarily to each of the converted branches, to help ease the transition. Michael Anderson, the branch manager for a Key location at Stuyvesant Plaza, was one of them. He was on hand at the Elmwood-Utica branch to help employees build on the training they had already received from Key.

“Really, I’m here just to be around for anybody that has a question, needs help navigating, directing customers, just a resource for everybody in the branch,” he said.

On the first day of the conversion, Anderson found the employees didn’t need much help.

“They have been very independent on day one, which is really good.”

email: mglynn@buffnews.com

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