My Worst Customer Experiences of 2015
The reasons for poor customer service are many but generally stem from poor leadership, poor human resource management, poor marketing management and reasons external to company. These will be explored in a subsequent blog dedicated to customer experience management.
Jamaican companies need to awake to the fact that customer service is not about front office engagements, customer service must now be understood as the complete set of engagements with a customer or prospective customer, irrespective of where the engagement takes place, which level of company representative undertakes the engagement and whether or not the engagement shows any possibility of being converted into monetary value for the business.
Despite the popularity of social applications such as Periscope, Twitter and Facebook which allow customers and potential customers to share their interactions with companies in real time, legislation which support consumers’ rights to fair treatment and agencies to initiate and impose consumer redress, my own experiences and stories shared, suggest that Jamaican businesses are not phased.
Below is a compilation of those organizations that, based on my own experiences and observations, could benefit from a structured customer experience audit.
CoK Sodality Cooperative Credit Union
- The Cross Roads location operates a Paymaster bill payment agency which closes earlier than the branch; there is no indication inside our outside the branch to inform customers of this. It means, the Paymaster could close while a customer is waiting in line to be served. I raised this in February 2015; it was still the case in December 2015.
- I send an urgent fax to the number listed for the Cross Roads branch on the company’s website and immediately called to confirm receipt. That fax number was unknown to the switchboard operators and to the branch representatives. I reported this formally in February 2015 yet that number 929-4028 is still present on the website as at January 4, 2016.
Scotiabank Jamaica & Western Union
- Are money bags no longer a courtesy? On at least three visits to Scotiabank branches in 2015 the Teller had to walk around to other work stations to find a money bag to pack my cash. I initially took this as a simple matter of stock depletion given my afternoon visits but when a Western Union Rep told me they no longer issued money bags I started to think differently. Maybe this is now a trend!
Ps. As a former high school Environmental Club leader, if this is to reduce the plastic in the environment, hooray! If these companies are being cheap, this is not cool, at least forewarn customers so they can make arrangements to properly secure their cash.
National Commercial Bank
- I watched in branch early 2015 as a gentleman in tradesman-like attire- lightly stained t-shirt and knapsack with things of various shapes bulging, frantic with worry, try to explain to a customer service representative that there were transactions in his passbook that he could not account for as he had not made them. Why this irritated the CSR I am unsure but she angrily waved the gentleman in the direction of another ‘area’ in the packed bank. The gentleman kept asking for clarity, “Sir, over there with that”. The only thing missing from the exchange was a long nasty hiss of her teeth and “chro baxide!” She relaxed her facial muscles for a second and was ready to hear my issues, I told her I’d wait until she was through dealing with the gentleman. She released a heavy sigh.
Some KFC managers need to get their act together! If the card machine is down or malfunctioning, signs must be posted at various points inside the establishment. On one occasion, a store manager argued that there was no sign because the machine was “only giving trouble’, in other words, it was not working consistently. Even with other persons joining the discourse to explain to her the inconvenience that could be experienced, she saw no fault with her logic.
Jamaica National Building Society
Around September 2015 my younger sister asked me me to get the closing time of the Jamaica National branch on the UWI Mona Campus. The automated recording at 1-888-991-4065/6 said 6pm so she rushed from her Chemistry lab before the scheduled end-time getting to the branch around 5:30pm only to find the branch had already closed from 5pm! She returned the following day only to learn that the transaction she wanted to carry out could not be done at that branch. Sigh.
Note to JN, the Money Shop vs Branch concept is not yet entrenched cultural knowledge.
Ps. The discrepancy in the opening hours between the automated system and the brick and mortar signage were reported via Twitter and message acknowledged. As at January 4, 2016, nothing has changed. Sigh.
Ministry of Labour & Social Security, Students’ Loan Bureau & University College of the Caribbean
Implementing a PBX system is a costly undertaking so when it is misused or underutilized businesses don’t get the intended value and expected benefits from the investment. The institutions identified need to review their systems to ensure that all users are subscribed to the applicable features and are managing their access to the system according to plan. For a caller to be transferred to a user that “has not subscribed to the voice recording” or whose “mailbox is full” is unacceptable! Who is carrying out quality checks on these systems and why aren’t such calls rerouted to another number or back to the main switchboard? Get it together for 2016!
Office of the Prime Minister
The national Information portfolio is handled from within the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM). Last year the OPM had to answer to the public regarding what appeared to be deliberate attempts to bar the media from access to the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe and David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister during their separate September 2015 visits to Jamaica. Particular pressure came from the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) concerning access to the UK Prime Minister as they felt strongly that the visit could have been organized to allow for even a few questions from local journalists and used the momentum to hammer home their long term demands. The matter became quite a media affair – traditional and online- with the Minister with Responsibility for Information, Senator the Hon. Sandrea Falconer, having to defend herself and her team repeatedly before, during and after the visit. See below the first two paragraphs from OPM’s October 4, 2015 press release ‘OPM Clarifies Issue of Questions from Journalists During Official Visit’.
“In response to questions from the media the Office of the Prime Minister uses this opportunity to state the facts concerning the reasons no questions from journalists were entertained following Prime Ministerial Press Statements during the recent Official Visit of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the Right Honourable David Cameron.
During the planning of the Visit by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the Office of the Prime Minister of Jamaica recommended that questions be taken by both Prime Ministers following their Press Statements at the end of the bilateral meeting. It was initially agreed by the representatives of both countries planning the programme for the visit, that given the usual time constraints with such short visits, the Prime Minister of Jamaica would invite and answer one question from the Jamaican media contingent and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom would invite and answer one question from the UK Media. “
- ‘By’ and ‘of’ are not synonyms. Did the UK Prime Minister plan his own visit?
- Using ‘both’ and referencing ‘both Prime Ministers’, when only one has been introduced as a subject is a juvenile error.
- There was a single bi-lateral meeting with ‘both’ Prime Ministers? No.
This piece of communication read like the continuation of a personal conversation on the issue. Its poor construction would have confused and misled any reader without prior knowledge of the situation. The business of the people must be better represented; this piece was a disservice to the OPM and to the people of Jamaica.
- I generally give Digicel high marks for what I perceive to be research led & culturally infused marketing: ‘Please Call Me Service’ #win, ‘Please Credit Me’ (CreditU) #win, but the administration behind its latest product DigiLoan, leaves doubts in my mind.
A DigilLoan allows active users to borrow up to J$1800 of phone ‘credit’ which they repay from future top-ups or from credit transferred to their number from another Digicel subscriber. Originally, the repayment of the loan was only from top-ups, i.e. the amount borrowed would be deducted from the value of credit a user put on his phone subsequent to the loan, until the value of the loan is recovered. Just months after the product was launched, Digicel revised the ‘terms and conditions’ to expand the sources from which it could recover the loans; credit received via its CreditU product became fair game for loan repayment. It is believed that the change was implemented to avoid the practice of borrowers circumventing* the repayment by routing their top-ups through third party phones instead of sending the top-up directly to their own number (my math tells me this was not the main reason).
- Since there is a 30 day period within which the loan can be settled, Digicel should, at least allow for that period to expire before ‘auto-recouping’ OR
- Allow the customer to decide which of their top-ups within that 30-day period, is to be used to settle the loan.
- Of the 9 persons I spoke to during my informal survey, all knew of the product, 4 had used it. They all spoke of both the CreditU and DigiLoan as ‘emergency credit’; an opportunity to be able to make a call in situations of personal injury, threat or other discomfort were common sentiments. If in fact these sentiments were also prominently featured in Digicel’s market research, they would have doubled back on consumers by changing the terms of the DigiLoan. In reality, if a user has a loan balance of J$190 and is within their 30 days to repay, but requests and gets a ‘transfer’ of J$50, for an emergency for instance, the transfer would be of no use as they would not have that sum available to them; it would be auto-recouped towards the loan!
- If principles of banking are to be applied here, the user’s prepaid account and the loan account would be separate. A financial institution could not draw down on your savings to settle your debt unless you are in default or without other ‘acceptable’ reasons. Does writing this into ‘terms and conditions’ make this ‘fair’? Is there work for the Fair Trading Commission here?
Every FLOW customer knows it is always a real pain trying to reach FLOW’s customer care by phone. On Twitter, there is a chance you may get a response if your Twitter following is large enough. By email, you may receive a confirmation email which directs you to make contact by phone. By Live Chat, you are not likely to get to the point of chatting to an agent if you cannot figure what information to input in the mandatory ‘service no.’ field. At a glance one would believe it is the customer/ account number that they want, but no, their system assumes that despite the company selling various individual services, every person who wishes to use the Chat feature is a landline customer. Yes, what the mandatory ‘service no.’ field actually wants is your FLOW telephone number. Sigh. So, if you are not a FLOW landline customer, get over their glitch by inputting their own phone number 620-2200.
Who is responsible for testing customer engagement systems prior to public use?
Ps. The LiveChat issue remains as at January 4, 2016.
Dispute Resolution Foundation
One would think this organization would be staffed with the most composed set of people, but no. Having called several numbers available on the main page of their website for several days without answer, I decided to send an email. The email went unanswered so I called the Ministry of Justice and someone assisted with an additional number. The phone rang numerous rounds before someone finally picked up. I asked about the lengthy delay in answering, the male attendant went silent, I asked to speak to someone else who might care that I had been trying to reach them for over two weeks without an answer, he transferred me to another male who went on to have me understand that because his desk is far away from the phone and it is not his duty to answer the phone, he could not accept fault. I then asked for the person who could accept fault and was transferred to a female to whom I again had to recount my experiences. She expressed shock at the conduct and nonchalance of her co-workers, apologized on their behalf and went on to provide very useful information to satisfy my query. Sigh.
Ps. There is still no response to the email, no one took my name or email address and so would not thereafter know I had already gotten attention by phone.
CVM has a few good programs within the mix –Live @7 and Football GPS being two, but production continues to be very poor. A foreigner watching for a 2hr period would find at least two reasons to ask if the channel is brand new – late start of programs, ‘jump start’ of programs –incorrect inserts et al, it does not translate well to viewers. Can we also get some more effort, creativity and originality from the news writers? Why are we getting 30 second story introductions only to hear the inserts begin with a verbatim introduction? That is lazy business CVM, get it together. I have noted some improvements in recent times but there is still a lot left to be done to compete respectably, irrespective of the strategic direction.
Small Business Woes
There is a new worker at my favorite wholesale who does not listen and says “Wi don’t have any.” to requests for things she is unfamiliar with, without checking, I have all the faith the manager will identify those weaknesses and send her to the packing room in short order. Sigh.
Commendations Among It All
While I have highlighted some of the bad of 2015, I must give hearty cheers to those who provided positive and fulfilling customer engagements during the year.
- The Information Units at the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Ministry of Finance and Planning and the Child Development Agency (CDA)
- Very special big-up to the proprietors of Kushite Vegetable Cuisine! Follow-up and follow through, #win. They sent me information requested within minutes, sent sms to confirm email sent and followed up days later for feedback. A micro business doing it right!
That’s right, two bullet points. Bad customer experiences create more lasting impressions; they stand out as customers do not accept poor service as the norm.
I expect better from the Jamaican business community in 2016.
C.E Clarke for Help Mi Consulting (c) 2015