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Customer call systems: exceptions should be the rule

Mike Davis | Sept. 29, 2008
I gave the system a couple of expletives and it put me through to a human operator.

The customer call system for a UK bank is placing its customers finances at risk by not allowing the rapid cancellation of lost or stolen bank cards. Whilst consideration of all circumstances cannot be covered in system and process design, once implemented there needs to be the ability to change the process as exceptions are identified. Without this the customer experience will diminish and business will be lost.

The design of customer-centric processes must consider exceptions

Personal examples are not always useful, but an incident this week showed me how much technology can affect customer (or potential customer) experience.

Ovum logoI found a bank card on the floor of a train as I was getting off at the terminus. I asked other departing passengers whether they were the card holder, and when all responses were negative I called the contact centre number on the back of the card to report the loss and asked them to cancel the card.

An automated answering system, using voice recognition, asked for the type of card and then my name and the account number. Duly given, I was told there wasnt a match and to repeat the account number again, and again, with no option to break out of this loop. At this point I was about to give up and just split the card so it couldnt be used, but, to the startled looks of the other people in the station, I gave the system a couple of expletives and it put me through to a human operator.

After I had given the operator the details and she had cancelled the card, I requested that she pass on the idea of a change in the script of the automated system. She said she would, but stated that they dont like changing things.

Needless to say I am not impressed with that bank, and my perception of it and the experience it offers its customers is now tainted forever.

Achieving savings may cost companies customers

As a consequence of the current economic downturn, there is inevitably going to be a further drive for automation in business processes to reduce costs, not least in the financial services sector. This applies particularly in retail banking, where previously the rise of the ATM made great savings for the banks through the reduction of staff and branches.

The rise of the call centre as the primary means of customer contact centre has created another area of cost to be trimmed. For many companies the contact centre has become their main point of contact with customers. They are concerned about productivity, and often the only metric they use about the centres is how many calls per hour they handle i.e. how quickly they get rid of their customers. Quite a challenge in a tight economic climate?


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