Hopefully you, faithful reader, are aware that GonzoBanker has a new home. We are all delighted to be in very comfortable quarters in beautiful Scottsdale, Arizona. As usual, the “big event” was really the culmination of numerous small events. I was responsible for many of these smaller events, one of which was the relocation of telephone lines from our former office to the new one.
And what an event it was. If you’ll bear with me while I re-live the nightmare, I’ll come around to illustrating how the lessons I learned from this experience are important and relevant to the banking industry.
Well, I hate to name names, so to protect the guilty I will label our telecommunications services provider with the pseudonym AQ&Q. (Any connection with any real company is purely coincidental. No, really.)
Step one of the process was to call AQ&Q’s customer service number to 1) request the move and 2) add new services. An Interactive Voice Response (IVR) device answered the telephone. I traversed numerous menus with choices that must have made sense at some time to someone – but not to me. Just when my brain was about to explode from trying to decipher menu code, I stumbled into a call queue and listened, glassy-eyed, while recurring messages apologized for the long wait.
At last, I was speaking to a real person. In a few sentences I described the move and what was needed. The CSR promptly said it would be taken care of and thanks for giving AQ&Q the time needed to make the change. I was told to expect a follow-up call within a few days to verify our changes.
I found it unsettling to have so briefly described our needs and be told the company had all the information necessary, but I decided to keep the faith and wait for the verification call.
You can probably guess what happened – or what didn’t. No follow-up call. So now it becomes our job to start tracking down the order. Without a direct number to the CSR who originally took my order, I had to once again travel through the IVR maze – only to be eventually connected to a person who told me there was no record of our order. Ouch! So now, with our telephone service in jeopardy, we’re back to Step 1 – one week closer to the move date.
Another week passes and I take the IVR tour again, which leads me to yet another individual who is new to our situation. Oops, looks like the order was placed incorrectly. The new individual promises it will be corrected and an AQ&Q representative will call and confirm the order. Surprise, it was yet another individual who called to confirm our order.
I subsequently had the good fortune to receive a call from an AQ&Q customer service manager to check on the quality of the service. I took the opportunity to tell the story, and guess what? The CSM told me that AQ&Q could not provide all of the services we ordered! And for the services the company could provide, the implementation date was well beyond our move-in date.
The bright spot in this whole ordeal was the effort this one individual made. Because of him, we avoided a catastrophe. (The not-so-bright spot is that, when I asked the CSM for a phone number to follow up with him, he said the only way to communicate directly with him is via fax! Just when we were making such nice progress…)
OK, so how does this story apply to banking? It’s simple. Banks continue to make more extensive use of IVR units and/or call centers, and I think you could make good use of the lessons I learned from this experience.
Lesson 1. I know this is old and you have heard it before, but senior/executive management must regularly call the bank and use the IVR. If it is necessary to traverse more than two menus to get to the information or person you need, that is too long. If senior management is confused about call navigation, your customers will be, too.
Lesson 2. Watch the call statistics to keep wait times minimized. The purpose of the IVR and call center is to efficiently serve your customers. Long wait times will generate angry calls to the branches.
Lesson 3. Always, always, ALWAYS make sure your IVR user can opt out to speak to a real person. Put that message in the first few sentences. It is too easy to get in the wrong place and be unable to determine an exit strategy. Your frustrated customers will simply hang up.
Lesson 4. Trying to sell complex financial products with under-trained call center staff will result in wrong products, misunderstandings and unmet customer expectations.
Lesson 5. Make sure your customer has a method of communicating directly with the representative who originally assisted him or her – a direct phone number, an extension or an email address. Too many mistakes are made when the next customer representative in the queue attempts to “get up to speed” reading notes in the file (assuming you have some type of contact management system).
Lesson 6. Ensure a quality control process is in place. Find and repair customer problems before they become catastrophes. It costs considerably more to host angry, frustrated customers in the executive suite, especially if it results in replacing those customers.
I certainly hope you don’t ever have an experience like the one I had with AQ&Q. Perhaps your bank can learn from my experience. You might even avoid being the target of your local television consumer advocate. (Hey, did I say anything about siccing the dogs on AQ&Q?)