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Your call is important to us




Banks aren’t customer-centric. Their ineffective service is wasting resources needlessly.


While on the phone waiting to talk to customer support at my bank, I reflected on this waste.


I had plenty of time to reflect…


Banking should be something that just happens. If a customer has to phone support, that’s failure demand.


John Seddon defined failure demand as:

demand caused by a failure to do something or do something right for the customer. Customers come back, making further demands, unnecessarily consuming the organisation's resources because the service they receive is ineffective.”


Failure Demand: “failure to do something right for the customer


My call went like this:


An automated voice asked and verified my reason for phoning. Asked for and ignored my customer number. Told me, and offered to repeat, a solution to my problem.


Wrong solution.


I entered my customer number and two digits from my telephone banking PIN as requested by the automated voice.


I was put in a queue with background music and frequently told “Your call is important to us”.


A human being eventually answered and couldn’t solve the problem so transferred me to someone who could.


Not the experience that I was after. Definitely a failure to do something right for the customer.


Needing to make that call and the long, drawn-out process are examples of failure demand.


Is the bank doing the right thing?


I assume that the automated voice was introduced because there aren’t enough support staff to answer customer calls immediately. Having automated responses for simple issues means that customers can get resolution quickly. Support staff are then available to deal with the more complicated issues. Fewer customers wait in a queue being told “Your call is important to us”, right?


I’m not convinced. I’m interested in what the underlying data says.


What percentage of people end their call after hearing the automated solution?

Has the number of people waiting in the queue increased, decreased or stayed the same?

Has the volume of calls increased, decreased or stayed the same?


Answering questions like this indicates whether the bank is doing the right thing or introducing more failure demand.


Introducing more failure demand will use more of the bank’s resources


Automation can introduce more failure demand. Calls take longer when automated responses aren’t adequate, leading to more customers in the queue. Customers then spend the first minute of their support call complaining, taking yet more time. Automation may give customers the wrong solution for their individual circumstances, leading to more problems and more calls.


My call would’ve been much shorter if answered immediately by someone who could resolve my issue.


How can the bank resolve customer issues immediately?


By focusing on removing the failure demand rather than managing it.


Why are customers calling support?

What issues are customers calling about most often?

What can the bank do so customers don't have to call about these issues?


The whole of the banking organisation should be involved in answering these questions and working together to reduce failure demand. It’s not just a customer support problem. Reducing the need for support calls and shortening the time to resolve issues means less failure demand and more customer value. It’s customer-centric.


Continually training front-line customer support staff to resolve the most common issues, and teaching them to resolve others as they arrive, shortens the time to resolve issues. Doing this reduces the waste of resources.


Final thoughts


If customers get what they need in the first place, they won’t have to call. This reduces the bank’s use of resources and provides a better service to customers.


It’s about examining the whole system and not just customer support. It’s about taking the time to think together from a customer’s point of view.


Moving banks is a hassle but if I find one that genuinely thinks my call is important to them then it’ll be worth the hassle.


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