Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Missive to My Bank

As I consider what words will express my feeling, I get an image of a rampart, built of huge slippery, leg-busting boulders, and coils of tangled wires, rising high over my head. You, the culture of the corporation, and the humanity of the people who work there, are behind that rampart. From your side, it is a smooth building face, with entrances and exits, people coming and going. It keeps everyone "safe", but that safety is isolation. I, the customer, the user, approach the technology, the ramparts, hoping to interact with a person, and discover not a channel to a person or a relationship, but a thing, that demands that I struggle through this knee-cap busting, ensnaring landscape, before I can interact with a person. To meet my human needs, I find myself embroiled in a flawed and complicated technology. This is not good for you, for me, or for the sustainability of the institution. I begin to think about how to find a place to put my money which allows me to interact with real people.

Your system, with ticket numbers, and a phone tree, is apparently designed to use your time efficiently. But my time? Like the baby food flavored to appeal to the mother, how would you know what the problems are and that for me to use the system grinds away at my time? The frequent users, those who learn and adapt, obviously will not report problems, and those too intimidated by the system will just walk away, so you, the corporation, will seldom hear that there are any problems. But how much does technology interfere with communication, where you would hope it would facilitate relationships with your customers?

Phone trees are dangerous to users when the tree does not have an escape value. Get way out on a limb where you don't want to be, and if there is no "go back a level" or "return to root menu", the only choice is to fall out of the tree - hang up - and climb back up to the desired level. Then there is the directory. The system may offer logical alternatives, but I quickly found myself in a menu option I did not want, and then the call was terminated. Which frustration do I want to deal with today? the phone tree or the email?

The ticket system used is different from email anywhere else on the web. Bulletin boards everywhere support cascading threads to keep a conversation on track. But not here. Here, I am expected to realize that I need to copy and paste a criptic "ticket number". Then, if I have made an inquiry, I need to return here to look up my "inbox" everyday, just to see WHETHER someone has responded yet. I feel like you think I have nothing better to do than sit on a bench feeding pidgeons, waiting for someone to visit with me. Moreover, you do not ask for a regular email address, a phone number, or an account number. If you know all this, you didn't use the information when I didn't answer your secret message being posted inside the ramparts, and if you don't know it, How are you supposed to upgrade the conversation to personal?

So I could just call your gateway phone number, and hope to talk to the person who wrote to me. Oh, I remember, I tried that. There was a name, so I made the "directory" selection, but then I failed the techno-competency test and got dropped out of the phone system. OK, call again and select "real person". So, will I be talking with the person who wrote to me? Will I know the ticket number of my in-house-proprietary-secret-email? Will I need to explain, to someone different, from the beginning, what the problem is, each time I call? So which frustration do I want to deal with today? the technology that isolates me from real people, or the human-resource system that turns real human beings into generic computer monkeys? Am I ready, yet, to prefer the inadequacy of the technology that drove me to write in the first place, over the inadequacies of the technology for communication? Insert just one more slippery spot on that boulder I have to climb, and I'll give up. You won't have to deal with me. You won't know I went away. You won't have any idea that despite your emotional readiness to talk to customers and be helpful, the corporation through its technology has passively succeeded to reduce the number of customers that make it to the top of the rampart, and therefore, who demand attention.

Now two months have passed since I last posted a query, and now I am back to re-post the same query, and discover I have been answered and un-answered! I didn't check my secret Inbox, I didn't know I was supposed to (is this what I signed up for?)! Oh, this system runs so smoothly, don't you think? I'm ready for lunch. How about you?

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