Why banks and telecom companies are seen as particularly shite at delivering good Customer Experience

The True Test of Customer Service

Whenever an industry-wide customer satisfaction survey is taken, you pretty much can be sure of one thing.

Financial services (particularly banks) and telecommunications companies (specifically mobile phone providers – although Comcast has produced some epic efforts lately as well in the cable TV space) will always be in the bottom two slots of said survey (generally followed closely by airlines — RyanAir has to exist for a reason after all.)

People wonder why that is – well other than that they have a horrible reputation for screwing over their customers in a myriad of ways; don’t listen to the complaints of their customers and continually ignore them, subsequently leaving them to seethe; and then those same irritated people, in turn, broadcast their plights on social media outlets (like hereherehere and here – just for a start), there is an assortment of diverse reasons for them to be upset.

Of course, most of these types of companies haven’t changed ancient business processes to take into account the constantly developing needs of their customers — they don’t listen to their customers, the complaints and develop methods to take a pro-active approach to resolution; they don’t empower their employees to make “the right decision” to help the customer in short order – but choose to make it a long-drawn out process that frustrates even the most patient person; their customer’s experience is never seamless, but rather radically different from online to in-store to the promises they make in their advertising; the leaders of the companies lock themselves away in “ivory towers” – making it impossible to contact them to try and suggest better ways of meeting their customer’s needs (that is a whole other subject I intend to get into here in the next week or so on my holiday downtime.)

Well, let’s just agree it’s a long laundry list of what would seem simple issues to work and resolve in a timely fashion.

But it also comes down to one central sticking point — and this might be constructed as a defence by those companies as to their past actions, and how their supposed efforts can be misconstrued by an incorrect focus of their behaviours.

It is a bit of a hill to climb to try to mount this particular defence – but let’s give it a shot:

“The particular importance of those services that these companies offer, and the effect they have on the daily lives of people — people who happen to be their customers – opens them to potentially unfair criticism.” 

“Communication” and “money” – other than “love/friendship/companionship”, you aren’t going to find things that are more central tenets to people’s lives in these current times (in modern-day Western Civilisation – well unless you are a sociopath I assume.)

Next time you are on the tube/subway/public transit – take a look around and try and gauge the percentage of people staring at their mobile phone while on their journey.

Or try and count the number of times you look at your mobile screen in a day (the average Briton looks at their phone over 85 times a day; the average American interacts with their phone 4.7 hours every day – checking just their various social media accounts on average 17 times a day on their mobile device.)  When people are queried on what is most important to them – be it in business, socially, or with their partners, it is all about the ability to communicate – ideas, feelings, thoughts, etc.  When that doesn’t happen, there are sure signs of trouble ahead.

When people are queried on what is most important to them – be it in business, socially, or interactions with their partners, it is all about the ability to communicate – ideas, feelings, thoughts, etc.  When that doesn’t happen, there are sure signs of trouble ahead.

Not sure I have to go into the importance of money in western society – but if you don’t get access to it, things like thisthis and even this happen.  Not good times.

To live, thrive and survive in these contemporary times, it is all about access to your friends, your ability to transact commerce and the ability to communicate your desires (whichever outlet you decide to express them through) – and your mobile phone and/or your debit/credit card could be seen as being the easy keys to unlocking that expression.

Sometimes both of them even combine.  Sir Philip Hampton, the former chairman of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has famously said “‘Our busiest branch in 2014 is the 7.01 from Reading to Paddington – 167,000 of our customers use our mobile banking app between 7am and 8am on their commute.

So, in key areas that are of paramount importance to today’s society, we have some of the worst offenders, with the worst outdated business practices, seemingly operating against the desires/needs/requirements/demands of their customers, who are in turn, are empowered by things like social media that can provide an immediate outlet of frustration to all their contacts (be it business, social or otherwise) – creates a “perfect storm” of customer discontent.

Banks, in particular, seem to have made various public announcements on their changing their business models to focus on the needs of their customers – and yet the same events keep cropping up over and over.

RBS being one example where if it not the mounting and never-ending legal issues, nor the on-going restating of financial statements that cost taxpayers billions, it is technology that has fuelled a constant barrage of negative attention for events like this.

Almost two years after making the proclamation that RBS’s priority is “to ensure that customers are at its heart and soul”, it might be found to be lacking as the number of serious issues continue to mount for both the bank and its customers.

As a colleague of mine recently pointed out – the stated goals of a bank versus its actual goals are often at odds – which has to offer some kind of internal conflict to overcome from the start.

While it is all well and good to say that you want to put customers are the heart of your business, you also have a responsibility to the shareholders to make as much money as you can for them.  In RBS’s case, that is the British taxpayer as they continue to be the majority shareholder (although they are selling some of the stock off – at a loss.)

But I digress…

It is an interesting conundrum to consider – is it their placement and importance in the functioning of today’s society that draws the special ire of customers, or is it because they are overtly terrible at customer experience?  Or a combination of both factors?  Well, the latter statement on customer experience is definitely true of course — but how much does the former notion weigh into the issue?

Seems Schrödinger’s cat has something to contemplate while it’s in its box (or is it?  Love the prospect of ending this on a geek/nerd joke if nothing else….)

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