McAfee: ‘Customer Service in the Digital Age: The Eternal Lament’

MIT Sloan’s Andrew McAfee reflects on “the amazingly bad design and execution of customer-facing processes among financial services firms.” He wonders if they’ll only get better “when competitors appear who take process design and execution seriously, and digitize them to the maximum extent possible.”

MIT Sloan’s Andrew McAfee blogged last week about a recent terrible interaction with his credit card company, Capitol One. He called it another example of a big financial services company that isn’t paying attention to process design and whose “customer-facing business processes don’t seem to take into account that we now live in a global and digitally-connected world, and that we’ve got ‘always on, always on you’ technologies.”

Here’s what happened. While traveling in India, McAfee had charges refused on the card. On his return, he called. After several back and forths with the service agent, “I then asked her how I was supposed to know whether Capital One refused a single charge, or took the most drastic step of deactivating my card. And here things got truly surreal. ‘We sent you a letter,’ she said.”

I went to the big pile of mail that had accumulated during the trip. . . [The letter] stated that “We have been unable to reach you to verify that these charges are legitimate.” Probably because they didn’t try. I checked my phone calls, email inbox, and message center at capitalone.com, and found nothing.

. . .Instead of emailing me or sending a text when a suspicious international charge took place, they mailed a letter? They expected to get away with saying that were unable to reach me, when they didn’t try? How is this still happening in 2011?

. . . I really am fascinated and puzzled by the amazingly bad design and execution of customer-facing processes among financial services firms. I wonder when, if ever, it’s going to catch up to them and start hurting their business. As I wrote before, this will probably happen only when competitors appear who take process design and execution seriously, and digitize them to the maximum extent possible.

Some of McAfee’s readers stood up for the card company, sort of. “I am impressed with their ability to take quick action in the case of fraud which is very important, even though it is exactly what is causing me the headaches,” wrote one person. “It seems to me that Capital One is taking their customer service very seriously in one area and letting it languish in others.”