Monday, June 12, 2006

Customer: A Victim of poor Business Processes

I intend this to be a sequel to my previous article CRM (Re) Defined. Therein I had urged the CEOs around the world to think about the customer as a key to success.

Now I turn your attention to some specific personal experiences, which I have translated into Business Problem statements that should hopefully become “big rock” items for CEOs to mull over.

These personal experiences are being repeated millions of times daily; to all the customers like me across the globe. The experiences below do not mean that A PARTICULAR issue exists with a particular Bank or a Telco or any other Service Provider.

My guess is that these issues are common to all; across horizontals / verticals; whichever applies (softer issues across horizontals; specific process issues applicable in all similar verticals).

I sincerely hope that Business Leaders do appreciate how are these issues affecting their customers and their brand image as a consequence. I also hope that the Business Leaders do something worthwhile, and not just view the related corrective mechanism as an unnecessary expense.

This is important because we know that all businesses spend Millions to build brand equity. But if it keeps getting eroded because of ineffective processes then there is no point in spending all the good money to build that fragile brand, which could snap when the customers / prospects begin their interactions with the Business.

It might be much better to shave a small percentage off of that mammoth promotion budget; and use that money to correct as many such business processes that adversely affect the brand and the business relationship. This, according to me, will be most effective in the long run.

And this, most importantly is what the Business Owners need to understand.

Experience 1) XYZ Bank:

Sequence of Events: I have multiple relationships with my current Bank viz. Savings Account, Credit Card(s), as well as my current Car loan.

Having shifted my house, I emailed to the account manager requesting address change for all my communications, and the reply was that this facility is currently NOT AVAILABLE through Internet, and I need to call the Call Center.

When I called up the call center, the agent rattled off a process – that needed me to enter my Debit Card number on the IVR etc. for verification whereupon I would go to special agents who would process my request.

I called up the IVR, went through the usual irritating stuff – Press *, Press 1, Press this that….authenticated myself, and then listened to some 8-9 options, trying to spot ‘Change of Address’. It was not, so I zeroed out.

When I reached an agent this time around; she wanted to further verify me through a set of irritating questions.. a) bank account number for verification, b) a random cheque number from my chequebook as verification, c) my permanent address for verification.

And then ………………. – contrary to my belief that the ordeal was over – she was ready to proceed further with the verification process – my current address as per their records. Only after going through this step, did my verification get over, and the change of address was accepted for my Savings Account purpose.

For my Credit Card statements however, I was to either call again as a Credit Card customer or at best she would transfer me to the Credit Card department. I declined.

Business Problem Statement: (As I would give it to this particular Bank)
− Why are you ignoring the Usage of Internet as a low cost communication channel and effective means of transaction processing?
− Why are you ignoring its convenience factor (to customer)?
− You are increasing work load on your IVR; your call center agents; and / or your Branch personnel who have to read through (and work in response to) the letter I would have to write to you.
− I think you have an issue:- How to identify and verify your customers
Customer Satisfaction:- You should also look at another issue:- How not to hassle the Customers in the verification process. The best authentication is in your Internet banking facility. It gives me access only after acknowledging my details; it has 128 bit key encrypted security; it trusts me enough to allow me to transfer funds; pay my bills;… etc.. but not allowing me to change my address myself?...Just allowing me to write to my Account Manager (who obviously KNOWS me by virtue of my Internet Banking credentials) but not allowing the same person to either change the address himself; nor initiate it on my behalf?....
− When I call up unauthenticated, the agent could have got me verified the same way when I did land on an agent after the ‘so called authentication’.
− This would imply that maybe not all agents are suitably trained to handle transaction requests hence only the ‘so called authenticated’ calls go to agents who are authorized to do transactions. The other types of agents apparently do not have such access. Hence even though the ‘so called authentication’ actually does not play a great role (actually most of the authentication happens by agent questions subsequently) it probably serves to filter the calls appropriate to your needs (BUT NOT THE CUSTOMERS’ NEEDS).
− Finally
o Agents don’t know what communication I have done with the Account Manager through Emails. Voice / Email integration is absent.
o My various relationships are ‘linked’ on the Internet Banking, which gives me a great comfort whilst browsing through the Internet banking site. But there is no way you know me as ONE person in your Call Center.
o Why do the Phone Banking agents (of either type – empowered or not) want to transfer me to Credit Card etc for a simple address change request? Because they don’t know my other relationships? Or because they don’t have access to the different systems Credit Card department uses?

Experience 2) ABC Bank:

Not much in terms of events. I got chased through phone by someone from the Bank’s Credit Card Sales (probably their Sales Agent). Given the promises of getting a Diary, Parker pen etc OR a free card for 3 years, I agreed to go ahead with the gift scheme; and their representative turned up. After filling up the forms etc. and waiting for about a month; I got a letter from the bank that plainly stated that due to some reasons (that they didn’t mention) I was denied a card.

I went to their website, and wrote a mail to them through their ‘contact us’ section. It was a stinker. The text is enclosed:

My first stint with ABC has been a complete washout. I fail to understand your logic of first approaching customers like me through your Sales Agents who pester you for appointments. Thereafter upon filling the application (ref XXXYYYZZZ), I am rudely informed by you:'not in a position to offer membership to our credit card programme'.
It gives me pleasure to inform you that you have just lost a prospect who could have done business with you worth INR XXX/- (my current limit with my existing credit card company).
I will also take every possible opportunity to discourage anyone who I know or have influence with; to refrain from ever applying for ABC card. What is the point of wasting their time as well as yours, if the end result is known upfront?
With regards but not so many thanks.

First I received an auto response thanking me etc. and that I will hear from a representative in 48 hours.

But even after the provocative language designed to generate a suitable response; the reply that I eventually received was exactly the same that I had received in the letter from ABC. It would have been better had they not bothered to reply at all, because the end result was the same.

Business Problem Statement – (As I would give it to this particular Bank)
− Do you treat interactions with your customers / prospects as ‘unsavory tasks’?
− Do you (or don’t you) consider interactions with your customers / prospects as an opportunity to increase revenue?
− Is there anyone from the Line Of Business who knows about such ‘cannot serve you’ syndrome?
− Why would a LOB head spend so much in a process that tries to woo prospects and eventually turn them down as a business opportunity?
− If that is
o being done with his / her consent; need to relook at that entire process itself
o being done without his / her consent; how does s/he know when such issues occur?
− Do you analyze your email systems and voice call center systems to trigger really upset sentiments ‘I will cancel’; ‘I will discourage everyone to ever applying for ABC card’; etc. and highlight it to appropriate Senior Management?
− Do you know how many complaints are you actually getting because of your processes? Or do you have your own convenient definitions of ‘problems’ and sweep under the carpet anything that does not fit this description (saying this is the way our process works)?

Do you know what is happening to your Customer Mr./Ms. CEO? Are you listening?


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