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KeyCorp CEO apologizes for online account snags

KeyCorp CEO and chairman Beth Mooney apologized Thursday in Buffalo for the problems many First Niagara customers encountered accessing their Key accounts. Customers also had problems getting through to customer service.

Mooney said the bank will make amends.

Key will send an apology via email to every First Niagara customer who ran into the online access problem, she said.

"First and foremost, this was not what we hoped for. We apologize," she said. "Folks will be hearing from us directly. I remember a boss of mine years ago said, when something's wrong, what you do to make it right is how we'll judge you from that point forward. Our teams did go heads down, worked tirelessly, worked around the clock."

Mooney said the problem that surfaced on Tuesday morning stemmed from the security questions First Niagara customers were asked when they tried to log into their Key accounts for the first time. While the customers were allowed to use the same IDs and passwords they had with First Niagara, they were asked to answer security questions the customers had not selected for themselves.

[Related: Many First Niagara customers have trouble after KeyBank switch]

"People were having trouble, particularly that first day, getting through the security questions," Mooney said during a visit to Buffalo on Thursday for the Sabres' season opener.

Customers were tripped up questions such as which lender they had their first mortgage with, or their home address in a city where they previously lived - questions that drew upon information about them available in public records. At some point, when customers couldn't answer the security questions, they were locked out and redirected to the customer contact center staff, which became overwhelmed.

Even though Key had added 350 people to its customer service center, not all of them were trained to handle issues related to online banking system. As customers' wait times soared - some reported waiting hours to get their calls answered - Key quickly trained more of its contact center personnel to deal with online banking problems, Mooney said.

Key also streamlined the security question process for online banking, allowing First Niagara customers to instead use the last four digits of their Social Security numbers. And the bank changed the Web page customers used to sign in for the first time, simplifying the instructions.

[Related: KeyBank cites progress with First Niagara accounts]

As of Thursday afternoon, the third full day of the customer account transition, nearly 200,000 First Niagara customers had enrolled in Key's online banking system, including 135,000 who had done so on Tuesday and Wednesday. And the bank said 43 percent of all First Niagara customers had enrolled in Key's online system, while 57 percent had not yet done so.

Mooney said while things went "extremely well" with the conversion in a variety of ways, "this wasn't the best first impression that we wanted for all our customers, for all their contacts and all their experiences with Key. I would apologize for that."

"The good news is, we've recovered, so that isn't continuing through the week, by how we fixed the process as well as how we realigned the call center," she said.

Out of the 1 million First Niagara customers whose accounts were transferred to Key, she estimated more than 10,000 of them hit  the online account roadblock on Tuesday, the first full day customers tried to gain access.

The customer service center wait times dropped "dramatically" after the bank streamlined the process for accessing online banking. By Thursday afternoon, Key said 70 percent of calls were being answered within 30 seconds, though the bank acknowledged there were "some pockets of higher volume calls where the customer response time is a bit longer."



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