“Sue them!” I recently advised one of my clients who has a constant complaint about the service levels from his bank. After listening to his latest ‘Agony Aunt’ lamentations that I thought I‘d just about had enough of, I felt that indeed it was time to take action. The bank handles his organization’s account which in my view qualifies him as a priority customer based on the transaction levels and amounts.

In this particular instance the bank’s money wiring system had some ‘technical’ problem that had taken two days to sort out. This had grossly interfered with his ability to wire salaries to his staff in the region. And him being CEO of a company that’s takes pride in honouring payment dates, was loathe to explain to his people that a technical hitch would delay their pay. The only practicable solution necessitated that he and his finance officer, go into the bank, withdraw the entire amount and deposit each staff’s salary individually into their accounts to ensure these were immediately reflected.

Listening to his annoyed proclamations, mulling over the inconvenience of abandoning our strategy session and the thought of the impending exercise that involved him spending a significant amount of time in the banking hall undertaking manual tasks to achieve the desired objective – I was quite appalled. I requested him to compute the man-hours he had already spent following up with the bank and the hours that would be spent in the bank both by himself and his finance officer and to nicely ring that up and send it to the bank with a letter from his lawyer.  All this would have been completed by the automatic click of technology, and is the reason for which he signed up for the automatic salary transfer system.

What for me what the wringer, the straw that broke the camel’s back, was that all this back and forth, discussions being held and his interaction with the bank over this matter was through the bank’s call center. One would have imagined that this kind of malfunction from a bank of high repute would have his phone inundated with calls from the bank manager or some other such important person in the bank’s pecking order apologizing profusely for the problem and seeking to see how best to make good. This call center experience involved during many instances, an auto response informing him that all the call center agents were busy at the time and that they would get to him ‘as soon as possible’.  He’d made several attempts to get through with the calls truncating mid the waiting period. His frustration was palpable.

I wondered out loud to myself and to him – who exactly should be responsible for bearing the costs of these calls? Doesn’t it behoove a service provider who offers a help desk or call center service for clients, to have some software that identifies incoming calls, how long the person has been on hold and the specific customer profile of the caller? This would then enable an auto response for priority level customers that the provider would get back to them and then have an agent actually do so?

In my then very justice seeking and indignation on his behalf demanded that he compute as well the cumulative time he’d spent making calls including the attempted calls to the bank, and the opportunity cost based on other important things he’d have been doing at the time, ring up that bill as well and serve it hot right along with the earlier billing in the letter the lawyer was going to submit.

Why would we as service providers not provide systems and processes that are customer centric and that focus on providing a smooth, hustle free experience for our customers? Customers are very simple people. All they want is quality, consistency and practical solutions for their needs. That’s all. They do not need bells and frills and belly dancers sent to titillate their senses – ok ok once in a while they’d love that too – but not as a typical occurrence daily…..

Customers stay loyal to organizations who serve up pain free processes. So much so that pain-free is the new ‘excellent’.  We are so used to problems,  used to things that don’t work,  used to false promises and ‘technical  hitches’ such that when what should actually be the norm happens, we record it in our ‘excellent’ rating scale.

So given that the bar isn’t set so far beyond reach in terms of eliciting customer loyalty, doesn’t it follow that we should at the very least ease our customers’ pain? Because soon enough their  pain will be painful enough to have them ‘monetize’ their pain levels and the legal ‘pain’ that will follow  will not be well worth the pain of having not eliminated the original pain in the first place.

Here’s wishing you and your customers a pain- free week ahead