Tom Peters, the author of “In Search of Excellence” tells the story of consulting for a big corporation. He spent some time analysing the company. He held a meeting with the company president and all the company vice-presidents. Tom was telling them all the things wrong with company, and what had to change.

The marketing vice-president got up and said, “I’m sick of all this criticism. We are no worse than anyone else!”

Tom says, “I had this picture in my mind of a banner across the front of the company headquarters reading, ‘Buy widgets from ABC Company. We are no worse than anyone else!’ The company slogan would be, ‘Kill for Old – No Worse than Anybody Else.’”

In my opinion, ABSA bank stays in business because its customers believe that it is no worse than anyone else! This is an indictment on the entire banking industry in this country. Please let me know if anyone out there has had a fabulous banking experience. I am looking for a new bank.

ABSA can give lessons on how to chip off customers. (See how many big corporations, with large retail customer bases, you can think of who have already taken these lessons.) The lessons go like this:

  1. Have a product that is complex enough to confuse a large proportion of your customers.
  2. Decide that it is unproductive to have a person that the customer knows and likes answer their silly queries, e.g. the local bank manager.
  3. Set up a call centre.
  4. Under-staff the call centre so that the customer phoning in has a long wait.
  5. Play very bad music inter-spaced with an American voice saying, “Your call is important to us, please stay on the line.”
  6. Do not empower the call centre operators to actually help the customer. Only give them the job of referring the query to someone else. In my case, I had what to me was a large amount owing on my credit card. I wanted a statement with a running total so I could see where I went wrong. The statement I get does not have a running total. The call operator assured me that she could see the running total on her screen.

“Could you e-mail it to me?” I asked.

“Certainly, it will take 24 to 48 hours to do this.”

Three days and two more calls later I found out that the call operator is not allowed to e-mail information to customers. The best she can do is log a request for the supervisor to e-mail the customer. The supervisor had not bothered to send the e-mail.

  1. Do not allow the call operator to give contact details of the person not doing their job to the customer. Get the call operator to relay a message that the supervisor is going to a meeting and will call the customer later.
  2. If the customer expresses skepticism at the chances of getting a return phone call and asks to be put through to the manager, put him through to an internal ‘phone and disconnect. The ‘phone will ring until the customer disconnects.
  3. Do not put the ‘phone number of your complaints department on your web page. Make the customer look it up in the old fashioned telephone book. That way you will only be bothered with calls from really chipped off customers,
  4. Have the complaints guy say, “I will get this sorted out for you and I will ‘phone you back.” Do not ‘phone back. Send the customer the wrong information. I received a copy of the statement I already had. No running totals, even though they are on the bank’s screen! This is called, “Do it willingly and do it wrong. You won’t be asked again.” I think, in this case, the problem was caused by the “Broken telephone” game. The supervisor did not speak to me, and thus did not understand what I wanted, and so did it wrong.
  5. Do not call back, even though you promised to do so, you might be able to help.

I manually calculated the running total and paid what I owed. I will cancel the credit card. No one will care until some bank is actually better than everyone else.

green-ink This entry was posted in. Uncategorized How to Chip Off Your Customers.