How One Poor Banking Experience Exposed Critical Process Failures

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With all of the digital transformation that’s taking place throughout different industries, it can be easy to forget that some businesses still cling to the “old way” of doing things. We decided to start this series to highlight everyday annoyances that we’ve experienced from the customer side of the business.

Today I’m kicking the series off by sharing several frustrating banking interactions I experienced recently. I had closed my family’s checking account since it had been compromised and someone had made fraudulent charges. While it was inconvenient to have to set up a new account and wait for the bank’s investigation to get our money refunded, the process itself was fairly smooth.

Customer Service Turns to Customer Frustration

Where things started to break down was when I tried to change our auto-debit information for a bill we were paying to a different bank. As I’d done with every other bill, I logged into our account online and searched for a way to change payment details. No dice. I then called and spoke to a customer service rep who—after some difficulty, 30 minutes later—confirmed that she’d updated the information.

About a month later, I received a notice from the bank stating that my payment was late and that they’d added a late payment fee. Still giving the company the benefit of the doubt, I figured one more call to customer service would clear things up. I could not have been more wrong.

The next customer service rep I spoke to assured me that the last person was not following the proper process since they could not change payment information over the phone. I had two options. Either make the change in person at a branch or submit a form. The first option was a no-go since this bank only had locations in the northeast U.S. and I had moved to Florida four years earlier. So the only option I was left with was to submit a form.

Complete Process Breakdown

Unfortunately, to do that I had to wait for them to mail me the form. In the actual postal mail. They then expected me to send it back through the mail, filled out with essentially all of the information you’d need to steal my identity and all of the funds in my new bank account. After much protest and having the call escalated a couple of levels, I was given a third option to send a letter via fax, which the reps would receive as an email (why I couldn’t send an email, I have no idea). Sadly, not even that step in their broken process worked. The fax never went through, and we became so frustrated that we called back and paid off the entire bill.

Miraculously, this information they were able to take over the phone.

How Can They Fix This Broken Process?

Clearly, this bank has issues in several areas. Before even addressing process changes, they should ensure that all of their customer service reps have a clear understanding of all policies and know where to look to find answers.

Once the reps are providing customers with consistent information, the company can then address process improvement. Whether they follow a formal BPM model or come up with their own process, one important step that’s needed is to understand the experience from the customer’s perspective.

[Related: What is BPM?]

Rather than simply assuming the customer experience, this would be a good opportunity to employ a little empathy. IDEO, the global design firm that helped pioneer human-centered design, believes that observing user behavior firsthand and putting yourself in place of the user is the best way to uncover hidden information and new ideas. That, combined with cycles of rapid prototyping and user feedback could get this process in shape quickly.

Technology Considerations

The other glaring issue they need to address is their reliance on outdated communication methods that expose customers to potential security risks. Faxing documents is no longer practical and asking customers to send sensitive information through the mail is irresponsible. Setting up a forms processing workflow that’s available to customers online can help make the process easy from a user standpoint and reduce paperwork and call volume for customer service reps. Setting up a self-service option could be the ultimate win-win situation for both sides of this business transaction.

Have a process nightmare you’d like to share? Leave us a comment below!