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Friday 27 April 2007

Today's customer service experience will be

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Had a meeting with my manager at Major Bank Brand and my first experience of their new on-screen focussed, customer service experience.

There really is something of the 'experience', 'ride' about it, or 'journey' - though as I write that my hearing of it is forever affected by Charlie Booker's bombastic pronunciation - stick your tongue on the bottom of your mouth and say 'jooourrnknee'. Basically , it feels like that because its not very familiar. You quickly become aware of the setting. It'll wear off.

The nice man runs you through the bloody obvious script, on screen. Proceeded at stages by lots of 'must say this' legal. Very stifled, straining to get spiel precisely correct. A shuffle shoes and weak smile moment.every five minutes.

After fifteen minutes, towards the end it starts going wrong. 'Will not accept'.
  • Poor nice man can't find easily and quickly where he's wrong.
  • Machine message repeats like a drill, carving through the 'experience', 'not correct' - but how not correct?
It's a hop and a skip from 'computer says no'.
  • Poor nice man then spends about five minutes trying to fix.
  • I watch how he uses his computer, he's quite efficient but not as much as could be, which costs time you're very aware of.
But, at base, he's let down by the interface and the program and what it's feeding back to him — he can't easily see a way out. Neither can I as I start peeking and trying to figure it out meself (wouldn't everyone?).
  • He's actually quite quick and when I say the word 'interface' at the end he's knows what I mean.
  • So what happens in very different scenarios?
It's easy to imagine the time added up, the business lost. It's easy to imagine endless comic scenarios.

This has very obviously, to my eyes, not been properly tested and here it was costing them money, time, brand value and all the rest. Visibly ticking away, or rather being chipped away at is a better analogy.

Very odd for me being stuck in this loop as a customer as I wanted to lean over and tell him to give up, I was going back to work, I could see it was hopeless.

Fortunately the human being wasn't a robot and through basic human communication the brand value wasn't actually impaired and other aspects of the system that worked - 'you might like' - really succeeded in getting over any unease about my financial life being laid out in such plain detail, on quite a large screen, fortunately not in a busy room. And the appallingly shoddy clip-art graphics.
  • But the usability flaws and the robotic scripting did real damage.
  • And he didn't appear to know what to do about it, he seemed resigned.
This makes the scenario much worse as it's central premise of a blissful, profitable customer service experience is completely undermined and how could it be fixed? How would they know?

After so many examples of new big business systems like this going tits up and immensely damaging brands, you'd think the test and test again message because of base ROI would have sunk in.

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