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Every process has points when the customer must interact with an organization which we refer to as Moments of Truth. Moments of Truth can either turn into Moments of Magic for the customer or Moments of Misery.

The possible Moment of Magic was lost. The couple would have been delighted to do the paperwork online at their convenience and then simply stop by the grocery store kiosk to provide photo identification and pick up the Welcome package the next time they were shopping. Many customers are willing to do part of the work if it is convenient or quicker. This is evidenced by the number of major stores that now have self check out kiosks. For an organization that wants to compete on cost, reducing labour costs is critical but there were some gaps in the process implementation.

Let's take a look at the Moments of Truth which were in fact Moments of Misery.

  • The automated response to their web application sent them to the kiosk setting an expectation that it was the final step? Was the email misinterpreted? Possibly but why wasn't the person at the kiosk able to deal with that variation?
  • Why wasn't the person at the kiosk able to access the on-line application and the Service Rep able to access the forms completed at the kiosk?
  • After completing the paperwork again, why didn't the person at the kiosk issue the welcome package immediately?
  • Why didn't the email asking them to call provide appropriate instructions?

No doubt this story is not representative of all customers using the new service but it is useful in highlighting some of the pitfalls organizations should be aware of when changing their processes.

  • One of the biggest barriers to implementing a new process is the organization's structure. Whether organized by function, by product line, by region or otherwise, organizations often plan and communicate within the defined area overlooking other parts of the organization. Planning for appropriate internal communication and training across the structure is critical.
  • Another pitfall is to develop processes around functions versus the end to end process. In this scenario the end to end process is the application (whether through the web or at the retail outlet) through to being able to do ones banking. It appears the web application process and retail outlet processes were designed independently resulting in gaps. By not involving all stakeholders in all parts of the design and testing, gaps in the training and IVR systems were not identified.
  • The third pitfall is not thoroughly testing existing functionality such as the IVR as if you were the customer. Many companies today have eliminated the option of pressing 0 or holding on the line to reach a human. Although this reduces labour costs, there is a risk of increased customer frustration when the question doesn't fit the options. Companies are particularly vulnerable to this risk when implementing something new and the nature of customer questions is still unknown.
  • A fourth pitfall is not identifying all of the possible ways a customer may want to do business with your organization. This goes back to understanding the end to end process. Was it likely that some customers would start applying on-line and want to finish the process at the kiosk rather than wait for the welcome package?
  • The final pitfall in this situation appears to be missed opportunities to optimize the process. Why wasn't the Rep in the kiosk able to access the on-line documents once provided with the reference number? Why was it necessary for the Rep in the kiosk to complete a paper application when electronic versions of the documents where being used on-line?

This article is not intended to criticize the organization but the best lessons learned are often found in customer service war stories. We hope this information will help you avoid some of the pitfalls of process management.

If you have any interesting customer service "war" stories, we'd love to hear from you.

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Just a few days ago a colleague recounted this story to me about his experience in trying to bring a bank his business. In Canada, we have six major chartered banks and they are referred to as the "Big Six". Collectively they manage over $1.2 trillion in assets, employ over 235,000 people and, in 2000, had a payroll of about $1.6 billion. These are not small organizations and until a few years ago they primarily competed based on service rather than price.

One of these institutions opened retail outlets under another brand name in a major grocery chain. Unlike the big six, with various service charges, the new outlets offered free chequing and savings accounts with virtually no service charges. No service charges sounded great so my colleague decided to apply. He went on line and dutifully completed the screens that were presented to open joint chequing and savings accounts for himself and his wife.

Once he completed the forms and submitted them, he was sent an email requesting that he and his wife go into one of their retail outlets to present identification. Fair enough he thought, considering identity theft and anti-money laundering legislation. The next day they trouped into their local grocery outlet and lined up to meet with the representative. It wasn't a long line but there was only one representative available.

When it was their turn, the couple sat down and explained that they had completed all the forms and were there, as the email requested, to present identification so that the accounts could be opened. They even presented the email with the reference number. Out came more forms. My colleague explained that he had already completed these forms on line (for a second time since he sat down) but the Rep insisted that these needed to be completed for security reasons. It included the signature cards and authorization for a security check. Well, if nothing else, we Canadians are a polite lot and if all that was needed to maintain this reputation in the world was a few more minutes completing some forms, then what was the harm?

The forms now dutifully filled out and signed with appropriate identification presented, the Rep informed them that they would be receiving a Welcome package in a couple of weeks that would include their cheques, debit cards, etc. When asked why the account could not be opened immediately, they were told "Since you started the process on the web you must complete it there". They left expecting the welcome package even though it meant another week's delay.

A few days later they received an email requesting that they each call the main office of the retail banking organization to proceed with the accounts. Each time the wife called the number, she was presented with the usual myriad of choices of press 1 for..., press 2 for..., and so on, with each choice ending in a recording asking for their bank card number which they did not have yet. Even pressing 0 only resulted in a recording saying that 0 was not an option. Noting his wife's frustration, the husband said he would try. He finally resorted to selecting the option to report a lost or stolen credit card since it was the only one that resulted in a real person.

After finally reaching a human the husband politely explained the situation and asked for this individual's help. After responding to a number of questions, for security reasons of course, the Service Rep asked for additional identifying information and for a verbal authorization to do a credit cheque. They politely explained, for a third time, that they had already completed the forms twice and signed the authorization at the retail outlet. The Rep put them on hold again to check this out. The forms they had completed at the retail outlet were nowhere to be found. They had no record that they had already provided the authorization and information. The Service Rep informed them that the Retail Rep had made a mistake and should have opened the account there and then. As a result the couple had two choices. They could return to the retail outlet, complete all of the paperwork again to have the account opened immediately or they could continue with the web process and wait for the Welcome package. At that point they selected a Third Choice and asked the Rep to close their file.

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