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The Customer’s Catch 22

I have noticed lately that the answer given to customers these days is more and more often “not me, not my responsibility, not my domain, can’t help you”.

New processes and structures are implemented to streamline work and interaction with customers. This is good news as lean management is a good thing and trying to improve customer experience and care is a must. However, there can be loopholes as a direct consequence of these changes as well as a lack of ownership in front of the customer, leaving your customers stranded and hostage of your own organisation.

Let me illustrate my point:

I recently changed my mobile provider. I had a box to amplify the mobile signal in my house, and so had to send it back. To cut a long story short, by the time the post office delivered the package back to the provider, they charged me 100 euros which they took out of my account. I received an email informing me they would reimburse within 30 days as they had now received the package.

So far so good…

30 days later and not seeing the money arrive on my account, I decided to contact the mobile provider. Usually you can contact customer services directly from your mobile, but, of course, not being a customer any longer I could not do that. So off I went on their website to find a phone number which was impossible to find.

After extensive research, I finally managed to reach someone via chat, who informed me that the 100 euros were to be reimbursed on my next bill… no wait, that’s not possible since I do not have a next invoice as I am not a customer anymore… They put a request on the system to reimburse me directly on my account.

A few days later, still nothing…

So I contacted the chat again, where I was informed that there seems to be a problem with the reimbursement, and that I should contact customer services by phone to discuss further.

I was given a number… but it’s an automated server requiring callers to input their mobile number in order to reach a representative – and since I am not a customer anymore, I am not recognised so cannot go through.

So, onto the chat again, where I was told to go to one of the stores… where I was told that they do not handle such requests and that I should call customer services (the one I cannot reach since I am not a customer anymore…).

Right, onto the website again where I came across a new phone number… nope, it’s the commercial team, they can only recommend to call customer services or go to a store and cannot put me through to anyone else… in any case they cannot help me, perhaps if I send a recorded letter, someone may or may not call me to address the issue.

At last, 2 weeks later, a cheque arrives, one month later than originally communicated.

What this story illustrates is this:

  1. There is a loophole in the process as it does not allow for any exception (the new “not a” customer)
  2. There is no communication between departments and no one takes ownership of the issue
  3. The responsibility is pushed back onto the customer to try and contact the company to resolve their own issue (that of the reimbursement)

I can think of similar examples from the recent past which leave me exasperated and I am sure you all can.

Customers do not really care about who is responsible, what the process is, where in the organisation the problem has to be addressed: they only want their issue to be resolved, and they are talking to a company as a whole, not individuals or departments.

Streamlining processes, defining clear responsibilities within teams and providing customers with the opportunity to get in touch with your company through different channels is great – but do not forget / miss out exceptions and cut out bridges and communication between areas of the business, leaving your customers in a Catch 22.

Julien CassegrainThe Customer’s Catch 22

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