Some management issues are hard. You are often balancing priorities. Sometimes though it is extremely simple: either you have concern for customers and take actions to back that up or you have some concern but don’t do anything about it.
Here are some examples that show you really just don’t care.
If you have invested millions in setting up computer systems to authorize, and reject, payments for say a credit card and you fail to notify customers when you reject a charge you just really don’t care. There might have been an excuse 10 years ago that it was too difficult to notify people. Today if your IT people can’t do that, hire a new CIO and have them create an IT support system that isn’t an embarrassment to any institution relying on it.
Another sign of an extremely weak IT and customer focus presence in an organization would be deleting records of your customers after 6 month or 1 year or ever. Again this is common among the too-big-to-fail financial institutions that seem much more able to design system to extract fees and justify ludicrous bonuses to executives than to provide the most basic services for customers.
Amazon, and most any non financial-too-big-too-fail institution, keeps your records available for you. The too-big-too-fail crowd though won’t keep records as well as the site you buy books from. They slap fees on customers if they want to get the paper statements they used to get for free. That is fine with me (the fees are far too high, but the concept is fine with me). The too-big-too-fail crowd wants to save money by not mailing you paper. Fine.
Then, deciding to delete your records after 6 months, or a year… is just a sign you have no interest in serving customers. Other than an organization that has no interest in customer service, suggesting such a thing would be a direct ticket to remedial training on providing value to customers.
If you find your company contemplating actions so bad they even make the too-big-too-fail crowd look worse than they already do you are extremely far from the type of customer focus need to have.
These types of things are so basic that any organization flirting with this type of lousy service needs extreme help. This is not the behavior of a poorly focused organization applying management improvement ideas. This is not the behavior of a poorly managed company using outdated management thinking. This is the type of behavior of a company that is in need of help to just start doing a poor job of managing, before they can proceed to mediocre, and then try to start building from there.
It is all the worse if the managers in this place that is so completely failing at extremely basic management is paid above the median wage for a manager. Guess what? Those too-big-too-fail managers are extremely well paid. It boggles my mind how completely failed these institutions are.
These are just 2 extremely basic communication failures (not notifying customers or actions you take, deleting customers data after an extremely short period of time [this isn’t 1970 when computer memory was expensive]) that make it extremely hard to argue you are making any attempt to be customer focused.
Some people worry that they need the latest secrets some new management guru has discovered. Sadly many many companies are failing so completely to just practice extremely basic management ideas poorly. They need to start applying simple ideas that have been known for decades
An example of a company that values customers: Hipmunk. It is quick to see the difference in attitude toward customers. Hipmunk is focused on providing value. Banks seem to have created a climate where the only focus is on bonuses where customer service has nothing to do with their bonus so you get the results that such a system would be expected to.
Related: When Companies Can Treat You Like an ATM, Many Will Do So – How to protect yourself from your credit card company – Worst Business Practices: Fees to Pay Your Bills – Poor Customer Service from Discover Card – Delighting Customers
I would suggest a different name for this group of poorly run businesses as many have failed, just they got bailed out. I would suggest the to “politically connected to disappear”.
Many of these companies exist in industries where government regulation keeps potential competition at bay. The recent economic down provide that these to big companies fail, but they won’t disappear because of their political connections. Unlike the thousands of small companies these big one wiped out, our governments, would let them go down.
Companies will only care for customers when they have to focus on the long-term, as long as they are driven by short-sighted financial markets that are protected by failed political systems, customers employees, and suppliers will be nothing more than a source to extract cash from.
Your blog post is both topical and (unfortunately) true. The way that many ‘too-big-to-fail’ firms treat their customers is virtually impossible to fathom.
The really scary fact is that even when the seemingly ‘too-big-to-fails’ have had to be bailed out by public money it does not seem to have changed their attitude much!
I suspect (know!) that some employees in certain of these institutions actually feel directly ashamed by the reputation of their employees. But, in these very hard times they mostly do not have the opportunity to ‘vote with their feet’ as there is nowhere else to go!
When asked: ‘What do you do for a living?’ it can be preferable to say: ‘I clean toilets on the Railway station’ rather than: ‘I am a custom relations officer’ for XXX Bank! At least the former job is seen by most as ‘decent’ !
The other problem is that the customers often do not know what else to do as there are hardly any shining beacons of ‘trust and respect’ left at least in the Banking sector.
There are no easy fixes to this problem and I fear that it will take a very long time indeed and a complete change in both corporate and public mindsets to restore the faith lost in the financial sector in the past few years.
Any company outside the financial sector that equally thinks that they can just treat their customers like dirt, needs an urgent ‘reality-check’ and must take note of just how disillusioned even formerly loyal customers can become within a very short space of time.
“There might have been an excuse 10 years ago that it was too difficult to notify people. Today if your IT people can’t do that, hire a new CIO and have them create an IT support system that isn’t an embarrassment to any institution relying on it.”
While I agree with the general message of this post, the above is dangerous. Most institutionalized systems we use today are built on layers and layers of legacy systems. Many of these institutions believe all they need to do is hire new executives to solve this problem. However, the new executives arrive at the same conclusions as the previous ones. One hundred of the top banks still use IBM mainframes for their systems of records. There are retail systems today that have had to build virtualized systems that emulate 50-year-old absolute hardware. There always seems to be a regression to the mean with these systems regardless of leadership, which means the ROI for change is not feasible at this time.