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February 2014

Poor Customer Service: What is it with banks?

Do you ever wonder why banking is called the financial services industry?  Or who coined the term? Most likely, it was the banks themselves, in which case it can only have been due to massive self-delusion or an unlikely and hitherto undetected sense of irony. Increasingly any link between banks and service appears coincidental and more likely to be the result of luck more than judgement.

FrustrationThis was highlighted in a recent Sunday Times article “Saved from Hitler, Lost by Barclays” in which a journalist described how Barclays not only lost the contents of a safety deposit box, but managed to absolve themselves from any responsibility for the loss. One would think Barclays would be more sensitive to such publicity in this day and age (especially in light of their new corporate values) but, alas, it would seem not.

Yet, while I can heave a sigh of relief that I don’t bank with Barclays, my experience with Santander suggests there is not much to choose between them.  My story hardly fits in the same league, but nevertheless seems to epitomise the apathy and general “couldn’t-care-less” attitude that passes for service in these monolithic, overgrown and overblown organisations.

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Naked Nights: Diary of Customer Service on a Trip to Tunis (5)

Lessons: Service Hell versus Helluva (Good) Service

My latest trip to Tunis was a marked contrast to my previous 3 which had all been uneventful and enjoyable. I have now shared, in some detail, my experiences during my most recent trip and so you have seen for yourself what made it so exceptional. There was more to this, however, than a self-indulgent rant. There are a number of explicit and implicit customer service lessons embedded in the experiences (as I hope you will have gathered from the titles.) So let’s take some time now to review them and discuss solutions that will ensure they don’t occur in your business to create service hell and undermine all your efforts to create an exceptional customer experience.

Hell 16271742_sMy journey to service hell began with the initial loss of my suitcase. It is hard to believe that it can happen at all in this day in age, when parcels can be tracked 24/7 at any stage in their delivery. It is even more difficult to understand when my suitcase did have a name and address label as well as the airline sticker. Yet, judging from the rush to the baggage claims and the number of unclaimed suitcases I saw in the baggage reclaim it is obviously happens more frequently than passengers would like to think. (I am sorry to say that it actually seemed to be quite a common experience, and that Air France was frequently identified as the culprit.) I can accept, however, that these things happen and that was the least of my issues with the whole sorry saga.

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Naked Nights: Diary of Customer Service on a Trip to Tunis (4)

Day 6: The Return

Thus it was that 5:30 a.m. the next morning saw me sitting on my computer bag trying to fit in all my newly acquired clothes, before squeezing in my laptop.

Forcing-clothing-into-an-over-full-suitcase_Image credit photo_7917768__jlombard_123RF Stock PhotoAmazingly I managed, and was able to wander down to reception to check out wheeling only my computer bag and carrying a shopping bag with the now much-hated new shoes. These I was delighted to hand over to the even more delighted bellboy, who I had previously established wore the same size and who had even offered to go out and buy a new pair for me!  Then, feeling even more denuded than when I arrived, I took a taxi to the airport.   

Fortunately no-one queried my slightly awkward, bulging hand luggage (I would not have been liable for my actions if they had!) and I had an uneventful flight to Paris. With a little time before catching my connecting flight, I stopped at the Air France Customer Service Desk to once again ask about my missing luggage. After all, as my suitcase must have made the initial flight but hadn’t made it to Tunis, Paris seemed the most likely place to find it. Based on my poor customer experience to date I thought that I should personally make every effort while there, and envisaged repeating what we had done in Tunis.

Once again, however, things did not work out as I hoped.

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Naked Nights: Diary of Customer Service on a Trip to Tunis (3)

Days 4 and 5: Plumbing the Depths.

It seemed that my faith was futile.

The next 2 days brought more of the same. I persisted in commuting and conducting the training in my black socks and sandals, apologising profusely for presenting a spectacle that could have had the fashion police locking me up and throwing away the key. (I am just grateful that nobody could see the image in the mirror that confronted me every night when I climbed into bed!)

Despair Image credit_ www.123rf.com_photo_6725409_despair-of-maturity.html'_ellaYet nobody seemed to care. Apart from the hotel, customer service was non-existent and nobody I expected to help appeared the least bit concerned. Another call to Air France on Day 4 elicited a sense of irritation and a request to please leave matters until the next day, when they would see what could be done. Meanwhile the hotel staff also kept pursuing the matter with baggage claims and greeted us at the end of the day with a sad shake of their heads as we walked through the door.

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Naked Nights: Diary of Customer Service on a Trip to Tunis (2)

Days 2 and 3: The Saga of Socks and Shoes.

Unfortunately over the next couple of days things got worse.

At the end of Day 2 there was still no sign of my missing luggage. I had not expected such poor customer service and this was bad news, made worse by the fact that I had packed my proven, comfortable shoes in my suitcase. This had given me a problem.

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Naked Nights. A Diary of Customer Service on a Trip to Tunis. (1)

Arrival and Day 1    

It has to be every traveller’s nightmare!

Lost Luggage 12884546_sDread turned to disbelief and then rapidly to dismay as the luggage carousel stopped without any sign of my suitcase!  Fourteen hours after a 2:00 a.m. start, I had finally reached Tunis. All I wanted was to get to my hotel, meet my colleague, plan the week ahead, have dinner and get a good night’s sleep. Now I faced dealing with this. With a heavy heart I headed to the lost baggage desk.

Faced with three lines, I naturally chose the shortest. Big mistake! Over an hour later, having watched people being served who had either arrived after me or, even more annoyingly, simply ignored the lines, my turn finally arrived. With my lack of French (or Arabic) and his limited English, the clerk and I somehow managed the formalities although by that time I was the last passenger there! Anyway I duly received a claim form and was told to come back tomorrow. I tried to explain that this was “im-poss-eeble” and that I expected more, but to no avail. I was simply directed to the Air France “office” upstairs.

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