Three events have made me ponder the way that big businesses operate:
1. I am currently trying to get an 'issue' resolved with Telecom. I wanted to change my mobile data plan. I won't bore you with the details except to say that I was put on the wrong one and charged accordingly. Needless to say, I wasn't undercharged!
What it seems to have boiled down to is the call centre person didn't know the procedure properly and/or gave me the wrong information.
2. Over the last 18 months, I have been dealing with my British bank, Abbey, who made a series of mistakes relating to my change of address within NZ in 2005, which led to my account being blocked. This made it impossible to retrieve money paid in by my British clients, which had knock-on effects on my financial situation, etc. I finally got an apology, compensation of £210, and everything was sorted out, but it took 18 months!
Again, this all arose because the first call centre person I spoke to didn't know the procedure for expat changes of address but pretended he did and gave me the wrong information. This resulted in the change of address not happening, mail being returned to Abbey, my account being blocked, and cheques bouncing, all due to a single blunder by someone at a call centre who got something wrong.
I won't bore you with the details of the sorry story ...
3. The Telstra/Clear fiasco that I have talked about on here.
It seems that almost everyone can tell similar stories which usually involve the following features:
* A call centre person making an initial blunder.
* The blunder has certain knock-on effects that come to seriously affect some important aspect of the person's life.
* Many failed attempts to contact someone with the authority, intelligence, time and willingness to deal with it.
* Hopes rising and then being dashed, as you manage to speak to someone who has to qualities above ... but who then fails to do what was promised and can't be contacted again.
* Many, many hours on the phone being bounced from person to person.
It seems that the problem is endemic to the way that big organisations do business. There are several faultlines:
1. The educational level/ability of the staff employed for frontline customer service.
2. The rigidity of business processes, requiring staff to be trained in a monkey-like fashion, rather than encouraged to use genuine problem-solving skills.
3. Ever-increasing 'performance' requirements for frontline staff.
4. Lack of adequate documentation by staff of key aspects of contacts with customers.
5. Lack of a clear 'issue escalation' hierarchy that is transparent to customers.
6. No one individual takes responsibility for particular customer relationships, thus requiring customers seeking issue resolution to explain their problem repeatedly to different people.
7. Inadequate resources for staff/departments devoted to issue resolution.
Now ... my point is this ... it seems clear that this way of doing business fails too many customers and is highly fault-intolerant. But it seems to be the dominant business model of many, many organisations, and nobody seems to be doing anything differently.
It seems to me that a company that can operate in a way that is more fault-tolerant would ultimately be more successful ...