Thursday, June 14, 2007

Dehumanising customer relationships

Anyone spotting a theme here? over the last few days I've been angered by humans acting like computers at 3 over my bill dispute (see previous post today).
I'm now dreadiing opening each bill from a large company because each time I seem to discover another example of a company trying to screw its customer - and then employing humans to act as machines when challenged.
Tonight's example comes from the Halifax. My payment for my credit card bill had, apparently arrived a day late.
I pay the bill with onine banking from an account with another bank. I had set up the instruction to give it the requisite four days to travel through the banking system (and will someone, somewhere please explain to me why that's still necessary when all that's being transferred is a notional value carried in digital form?).
A Bank Holiday screwed up the calculation. The punishment for my crime was to be charged a £12 'late fee'.
I called to object, pointing out I've been a model customer for them for many long years and had made every effort to pay on time on this occasion.
No joy. The poor employee - reading out the script - is clearly told they must stick to the line no matter what the logic of the argument they are met with, no matter what the quality of the customer.
It's their customer policy not to refund late fees.
Let me tell you. it's not a customer policy at all. I asked how much my late payment had actually
cost. Couldn't answer.
I guessed in the region of a couple of quid. And for this, you are willing to end your relationship with a model customer? How much more is it going to cost you to recruit the next one? Staggering!
But this is the state of customer 'relations' in large companies today. Essentially they are automated. When you want to talk to a person, their response is automated too (they have to stick to their line). The very people who are best positioned to maintain the relationship with the customer have no power to respond to the customers needs.
In other words, companies no longer have ANY relationship worthy of the word with their customers.

On this occasion, a right-thinking manager over-ruled the person I originally spoke to. My penalty fee is going to be refunded.

But I am left with a bad taste.

How much better if the CRM they employed in the first place actually referred to my record with them before instantly landing me with a penalty? How much better if someone had called to discuss before doing it rather than slamming me with the bill and forcing me to call them?

How much better if the person I had to complain to could actually act with some autonomy.

These companies are centralising control just at the time the rest of the world is decentralising it

No wonder they are rubbing their 'customers' up the wrong way.

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe you didn't mention the ultimate de-humanising insult.

    The Halifax now uses a computer to phone-stalk its customers. Somebody told me about this a few months ago and I didn't believe it - automated (answering) phone services are bad enough, surely no company would be so crassly rude to its customers as to initiate a call by computer!.

    Then in June a Halifax computer phoned me to tell me I had missed a card payment and to collect it. If you don't complete the process it just goes on and on phoning you!

    If I walked up to a Halifax director and spat in their face, maybe they'd understand just how incredibly insulting I think this is.

    Of course it is rather more significant than just the Halifax being stupid. The issue of computer-initiated phone calls is serious. If companies get the idea that we will answer their machines, the floodgates will open and we'll all be bombarded with endless marketing (spam) phone calls.


The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?