Do we have an overconfidence in processes that prevent us from seeing the obvious? Could it be that our processes and routines hide the fact that there is a customer that needs help and attention.
Why do i ask this question? Well, during my vacation this year i had the unfortunate experience of loosing my credit card. How this happened is not relevant to this story but my experience with trying to get a replacement card delivered to me in another country while still on vacation made me think about how we sometimes have overconfidence in our processes and routines.
I'm in another country than my home country. I have lost my credit card. I have no phone. I use an nearby Internet cafe to make phone calls over the internet and read e-mails. After a number of calls to block the lost card, finding contact information to the bank support i finally got through, remember, I'm doing this from an Internet cafe with borrowed equipment. While talking to the service desk at the bank that issued the credit card I was told that to get a replacement card would not be a problem. When i informed the support agent that i was in another country the reply was that i had to send them a written letter where the loss of the card was explained and a written request for the card to be delivered to an abroad address where i would be staying during delivery to personally sign of the delivery. It was very important that it was written in a letter due to that my signature was required! Come on, I'm in pain and i need help. Written letter?
After some more discussions i asked if it was possible to write a letter on a piece of paper and then take a photo of it and e-mail the photo where all the information and my signature was present. After verifying this with a number of different managers we agreed on that this was indeed possible if the email was sent to a specific e-mail address that was connected to their support tool. I did what i was told and felt really good that this was solvable even though it took me a while to take a photo, get it stored online so that i could include it in an e-mail.
two days later i had not received any confirmation of my issue or any indication that everything was going according the plan so i called them again to get a status update. The support agent informed med that yes, the e-mail was received two days ago but apparently attachments in this way was not supported (a long technical explanation was accounted for and i didn't understand half of it anyway) so the card had not been sent. I did not get any explanation for why an attempt to contact me had not been done.
I asked if i could sent the e-mail again to a personal bank e-mail address instead to se if the attached photo would come through and was told that their policy did not allow them to handout personal e-mail addresses. Now what? After continuing this discussion with various managers and constantly being denied my request i was finally connected to a new support agent (the one i had talked to earlier had left for lunch). At this point i was tired, upset and sad. After briefly explained the situation for her, she (even though not allowed) gave me her personal e-mail address, requested me to sent the e-mail again, confirmed to me that it was received including the photo. She also made personally sure the support case was updated with all necessary information and e-mailed me a verification that DHL was on the task to deliver the card to me. What happened? Someone stepped outside the box and suddenly everything worked like it should have done in the first place!
This started me to think about processes, policies and routines. It took me several days, several phone calls, several support agents and managers to finally get to talk to someone who actually put me in focus. who listened to my needs, my situation and used all resources available to help me. Hey I'm a customer.
I finally received the replacement card as promised and everything continued as normal. My reflections though are that there is a BIG difference between following a process compared to making sure the correct outcome is achieved.
I think it is common that overconfidence in tools, processes, policies and routines hide the fact that there is a human on the other end that is desperate for help. Do we need to start acting as if there is an abandoned baby in front of us? We sure would not leave it before we made sure it got proper care.