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Dr Anderson Uvie-Emegbo - How To Lose Your Customers in the Digital Age
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Wednesday, 22 October 2014 08:02

How To Lose Your Customers in the Digital Age Featured

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A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back when it begins to rain ~ Robert Frost

Robert Frost must have been thinking about me when he penned this timeless quote.

I would like to share my experience with my soon to be ex-bank. It is a youthful, energetic, innovative and inspirational bank. The security personnel at its branches are ever so helpful. The bank easily attracts forward looking and upwardly mobile customers. It is very active on social media, which it uses for brand engagement and social selling. It has a dedicated social media complaints helpdesk. I opened my first business account with the bank and maintained accounts there even when I worked with competition.

But that is the good part. I have been a victim of many unsavoury incidents that are becoming more of the norm rather than the exception. As the bank’s customer base exploded in recent times, it appears that the level of service delivered to customers has waned. For many years, I explained away their several process and people shortcomings and tried to adapt to their challenges. But the more I tried the more I realized that things were getting worse not better – at least for me.

In January 2013, I closed my first ever business account after the bank held on to funds a client had paid me for 5 days. The bank hid under a bogus “new Central Bank of Nigeria directive” that I needed to prove that I had a contract with the said client. I was blamed for not knowing my account officer and tossed from one branch to the other. The bank had not informed me of the “said CBN directive”.

It was when I wrote a stinker to one of its key management staff that the funds were hastily released and its head of SME Banking segment gave me a belated call 5 days after her team played god with my funds. The action by the bank cost us about N750,000 in lost opportunities. I withdrew every naira and kobo in that account at a go and have never operated the account since then. In an email to the bank, I stated that I would not operate that account based on the loss I suffered.

Customer Disservice

The last straw that broke the camel’s back began about 9.34pm on Thursday, 16th October 2014.

After using their naira mastercard on one of their Automated Teller Machines (ATM), the sum of twenty thousand naira (N20,000) was debited from my account without the ATM dispensing cash. We have all experienced ATM dispense errors before. You breathe a little easier if it is your bank’s card on your bank’s ATM. This bank has a service level agreement in which reversal of funds occurs automatically within 24 hours. While that is the case most of the time, my experience of late has been the reverse. I have had to call and write their contact centre before the reversal occurs. I therefore had reason to be wary. I sent an email to its 24-hour contact centre almost immediately and was told to wait for 24 hours to elapse. To cut a long story short, after about 6 emails and a long voice call to the contact centre, my funds were reversed at 8.04am on Monday, 20th October 2014 (about 82 hours later).

 

Customer Disservice

So here are 6 Steps to lose a customer in this digital age.

1)     Break Your Promises…with Bad Excuses

Bank: “By the time it became an issue it was already Friday night. It will take 48 working hours for the unit in charge to reverse the amount”.

My Interpretation: “Anytime from Thursdays, use our cards on our ATMs at your risk. In the event of an ATM dispense error the earliest you will get your funds is Monday”.

2)     Take No Responsibility and Ownership

Customer: “I will like to speak with your supervisor” (in a call to the Contact centre on Sunday morning)

Bank: “There is no supervisor on duty”

Customer: “Please ask the supervisor to kindly call me” (that did not happen)

3)     Don’t Empower Your Frontline Team

Bank: “The cards unit is in charge of resolving this. We can’t do anything here”.

Customer: “I don’t want to know your bank’s structure, just return my money” (over 90% of the issues I have experienced are cards/e-business related)

4)     Blame It on the System

Bank: “The financial system is to blame. Why should there be ATM dispense error in the first place? We are revamping our technology. We have a complaints desk (physically and on social media) and management gets daily complaints reports”.  

5)     Don’t “Know Your Customer” (KYC)

Almost every month, since I closed my business account I get a call from different officers asking me to reactivate my account. They have no clue as to why I stopped operating the account in the first place. When I ask each person to go through my records that is the last time the individual calls me.

6)     Blame it on Technology

We should not hide behind technology and its lapses. I agree service failure occurs even in the best of organizations anywhere in the world. What I will NEVER support is the failure of businesses to design their service recovery processes to minimize customers’ pain points and maximize “wow” moments. Fix your service and people issues. Is it technology that creates a culture of “silos” and makes certain departments “demi-gods?”

The Bottom-Line

Immediately the funds were reversed, the complaints team called to say that the issue had been resolved. How convenient to define resolution that way? N20,000 on a Friday is not the same value to me on a Monday. The issue is beyond reversing the funds.

The bank needs more proactive employees and more customer centric processes - not more feedback channels. It needs to reinvent and implement a win-win customer intimacy model especially in the light of its many voiceless customers. It is time to leave good behind and reach for the true greatness within it.

 P.S: This article was also published in the 22nd of October 2014 edition of the Punch Newspapers. Click to Read  

 

Dr Anderson Uvie-Emegbo

                          Web Contact

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