Our first Web 0.2 Citation—Grace Bank Lost in Commodityland

Bank Wins Web 0.2 Citation for Delivering "Yechsperience" [customer experience satire](**Updated) Marketing Outlays Sabotaged by Sub-par Process Execution

Chicago, 29 November 2006—Today, the Global Human Capital Journal awarded Grace Bank, the top three credit card issuer, its notorious Web 0.2 Citation for inducing an acute spasm of customer yechsperience™.

This citation demonstrates how exceptionally poor service destroys brand despite kind words and happy pictures from Marketing. Although Grace employed a somewhat formulaic approach, it demonstrated laudable skill at producing customer irritation and angst.

Grace began the customer relationship with overcaffeinated marketing, followed by doltish fulfillment in the back office and blithe customer service. Consumer credit cards are largely a commodity service, and no customer will thank an issuer for seamless integration and real-time access. However, when customers do not get the minimum level of service, they become hopping mad.

Account of Yechsperience™

Here is how Grace brought home the bacon, as reported by the judges:

  • Having endured a relentless barrage of direct mail advertising over a period of months, I accepted one of the bank’s offers. They had acquired a Chicago bank of which I’d been a customer some years ago, and I thought I’d see how their service was. Here was their opportunity to leverage the home-town advantage of their multi-billion dollar acquiree. I chose to forgive the summer carpet bombing campaign: they’d achieved awareness but not warm and fuzzies.
  • A new customer, I had set up my on-line username and password over a week ago and had visibility into my account. This is a promise, by the way: once I create a username and password, I have control over that account unless you break your promise to provide the tools to me.
  • When I logged in today to spend a few seconds verifying balances and due dates, the site refused to recognize my password, even though I had used cutting/pasting best practices to create them. On top of it, it cancelled my password due to “too many login attempts” (3)—classic. As the site made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, I recreated the username/password. Hackles were definitely up at this point.
  • I accessed the account, but no account information was visible; just the cross/up-sell services that the bank was pushing. This was getting better by the minute! I tried all possible navigation paths to no avail.
  • I gave up and called customer service while I could still contain myself. I was given an unprecedented ten minute estimated hold time, which was replete with polyurethane marketing messages thanking me for my patronage. Each one brought me closer to hanging up and canceling. At least they didn’t violate the ten minute promise, but then the representative confronted me with the most strenuous security grilling I’ve ever had (of course, some of the things I had already entered via the phone keypad). This brought up several thoughts: 1) “You have bigger security problems than all my other accounts”; 2) “You don’t know what you’re doing, so you’re dragging out any challenges you can”; 3) “You really don’t know me or have control over my information.” All good.
  • While waiting, I had logged out and tried to log back in, just for fun. Of course, the site refused to recognize the newly-created username/password. At this point, irritation transitioned to sardonic apathy.
  • The representative explained that there was a security hold on the account due to a transaction and that she had just released it (that security thing again!). She said that I should be able to access the account within 72 hours. When I told her that I was unhappy about this experience, she suggested that, perhaps it might work if I tried “right now.” I tried to log in, but nothing was available. She said that their systems typically took 72 hours to update. I asked her to please note the account, that I didn’t want any problems with service charges (which I’m half-expecting at this point), I thanked her for her assistance, and we hung up.
  • Time elapsed: about 25 minutes. I have about twenty on-line banking and card accounts, and this was the worst experience in recent memory.
  • Chances of retaining this account: zero.

Observations

  • In a commodity business, proper process execution is table stakes. Proper execution does not differentiate; however, sub-par execution does differentiate—in the wrong direction. I will terminate the account as soon as I feel like I can spend more time than it should require. Companies that do not execute make themselves irrelevant.
  • I received better site functionality in 1998, when I first began electronic banking, and it’s inexcusable for this bank to fail to provide real-time functionality in late 2006. The fact that this bank is a roll-up and hasn’t integrated its systems does not add value to most customers. We don’t care.
  • Commodity businesses that try to differentiate through hollow marketing messages emphasize how clueless they are and push customers away. Marketing only offers words and pictures, but in a commodity service like consumer credit cards, execution carries the day.
  • Marketing will probably draw the wrong conclusion from the fact that I accepted one of their offers (they got a new customer), and this will lead them to continue their “paper spam” practices. I already had a negative experience when I had signed up due to their rancid direct marketing effort. The poor execution almost guarantees that I will cancel. It’s the textbook way of how not to run a business: “attract people to have bad experience.”

Remedies

The bank missed several opportunities to add value, even in light of poor execution.

  • While I was holding, the bank could have informed me about their extra strenuous security procedures and the reasons for them. Had they done so, they would have completely reframed the value of the hold time and my reaction to their over-the-top questions.
  • The bank could have emailed me and told me about the security hold and what to do about it. Remember, on-line means real-time unless otherwise noted.
  • Don’t build a bad opinion of the company through carpet bombing. Today, the sophistication of databases and digital workstreams make this inexcusable. It can be done well, and if you’re not doing it well, it shows you’re not willing to make the investment to communicate with customers in a courteous manner.
  • In light of the proliferation of business intelligence, customers increasingly expect companies to know them. Don’t spam me for a service I already have. Since it can be done, those who don’t show that they’re unwilling to do it right, to care.
  • Don’t try to sell me other services until we have a relationship. Don’t use aluminum siding salesman tactics.

About the Web 0.2 Citations

The Global Human Capital Journal launched the Web 0.2 Citations in 2006 to recognize instances of yechsperience™ worldwide. The citations strive to communicate the importance of respectful, collaborative customer communication, and they aim to be educational. Although the primary account of the events leading to the nomination may be spiced with sarcasm, citations must include key observations and remedies that can could address expectation gaps. In the Knowledge Economy, the customer experience itself will be the battleground on which market share will be won or lost.

The name “Web 0.2” references the emergence of “Web 2.0,” the second phase of the World Wide Web, which emphasizes peer to peer interaction and the voices of individual customers. The “0.2” part of the name is a reference to an alpha (in development) version of software, which is not ready to be released to customers because its performance is uneven. Generally, a company’s version 1.0 is the first version to be sold to customers. “Yechsperience™” represents a large gap between customer expectations and providers’ unsatisfactory responses to dashed hopes.

The GHCJ is solely responsible for evaluating nominations, judging and conferring the citations, although it encourages any interested party to submit nominations. There are no restrictions as to the number of citations that may be awarded, and all businesses and industries are eligible.

View all the Web 0.2 Citations at any time by clicking the green logo.

Submitting Nominations for a Web 0.2 Citation

The GHCJ encourages anyone feeling a paroxysm of yechsperience™ to nominate a company. Strong contenders will follow the format exhibited by Web 0.2 winners:

  • Give the context as well as a primary account of how the company induced yechsperience. Remember, winners must produce prolonged angst in customers. Sarcasm and irony are not required, but they seem to increase chances of success. Share the facts that illustrate the candidate’s skill at causing yechsperience™.
  • Do not use a company’s name, although you may use a fictitious name. Our aim is not to embarrass a company outright but to educate.
  • Based on your vantage point, issue observations about the company’s business, competitive position and shortcomings. Explain the expectation gap in business terms, and use references to competitors and adjacent value chain players.
  • Finally, recommend remedies that would help the company reduce yechsperience™. Include how it could have reduced your angst. The most competitive nominations reflect on customers in general as well.
  • Should you have any questions, please contact us.
  • Thank you for your interest in the Web 0.2 Citations.

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