Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Customer Disservice Playbook

Many of us in the customer service community write--again and again--about the things that help customers and make them feel great about their interactions with your business. If we compiled all these things, they'd be in a "Customer Service Playbook." This morning, I read an account on Facebook (i.e., from someone I know personally) that tells me there also seems to be a playbook of all the opposite behaviors, and some businesses seem determined to follow it. The account follows, stripped of personal information and the name of the institution. (Why? Because this type of behavior is not limited to them, and also because I don't want to give them the publicity.)

Here's the story:

I needed to order new checks. Normally, it takes 1 minute. Go to the check company website. Enter routing number, account number, next check number. Click. Done.
Today, the website gave me a the message, "We can not help you. Contact your financial institution. Same with [the check company when I called] the phone number. 

So, I call [my bank].

First, all I can get is automated info about my account balance, etc. Finally, desperate to talk to a human (pressing 0 didn't work), I claimed to have lost a card. That person told me I had the wrong department (I know!) but connected me to the right one. Finally, after a cumulative half hour on the phone, I got to the right person.

Was it as simple as giving him my account number and next check number? No, no, no. He asked for: 

  • My name
  • My Social Security number
  • My wife's name
  • Her Social Security number
  • Our address
  • Who I received direct deposits from
  • The amount. Same for [my wife]
  • The expiration date of my ATM card
  • My driver's license number(!)
All to ensure security so they can send one stinking box of checks to the address on record.

In the end, I learned that they changed check companies. He gave me the website. 

Why he didn't just do this at the START of our long, intimate conversation, I can only guess.
Now, as many of my readers know, I am very concerned with security, and so I see the value in properly identifying customers before making any changes or exchanging personal financial information. This, however is an exercise in stupidity. 

Here are some of the elements in the "Customer Disservice Playbook" illustrated in the story:

  • Poor communication - My friend wasn't aware that he needed to contact a new company, and there was nothing on the old check company site saying, "If you're a [financial institution] customer, please see this page on their site." On that page would be a link to the new company. (You can't, after all, expect the check company to advertise their competition.)
  • Bad phone tree - Give people a real option to speak with a human if they wish. My friend had to lie (lost card) to get attention. 
  • Inappropriate security practice - Good grief! My friend wasn't trying to empty the account and have the balance sent to the Cayman Islands! What should have happened was quick identification by the calling number, or a good identifier like the usual mother's maiden name or secret question, then the news that the check company had changed, and not only speaking the link to their site, but an offer to get the check company on the phone or at least get a helpful customer service number to call as an option.
  • Bad guidance or scripting for the customer service reps - few simple questions would have uncovered the reason for the call, and sent my friend on his way to the check company website where he would have to properly identify the accounts and address anyway.
Making it difficult for your customers means that they will jump to another institution as soon as they can. 

Give it some thought.