An 80-year-old lady recently phoned her bank to tell them her husband had died. The person on the receiving end could think of nothing better to say than: "We'll have to freeze your account." The upset customer was so taken aback that she had to contact her son to phone the bank later and point out that she and her husband had a joint account, and that some expression of sympathy would have been more appropriate.
Our Bereavement Forum (of which Cruse is a member) has approached several banks and other organisations in the past few months offering professional help to train staff in handling bereaved clients and staff sensitively. Only a small number have even replied (mostly solicitors).
We suggest that there is little point in spending vast sums of money to induce people to join a bank or any other such institution if they can be lost as easily as the lady mentioned above. The personal recommendation of a client treated with sympathy, along with an attempt to understand the shock, confusion, and adjustments needed, will give far more credibility than offers of free carriage clocks or pocket calculators.
Rev BRIAN CRANWALL
Chairperson, Sheffield Area Bereavement Forum