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If I cannot call you, I won’t deal with you

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I’ve recently been dealing with a company that has historically been a good provider of service. I’ve used them for years. Suddenly, things broke down.

The main issue is that they only provide a digital service now. There is no call centre – there used to be one; there’s now just an online service – which broke down the other day as it was under maintenance (how was I supposed to know that); and everything about the company is focused upon the customer doing it all in-app – which is fine when the app works.

This company has taken digital to the extreme.

When I google about them, I can see that many other people have had the same experience as the top google search is how do I get to talk with a human at ABC company.

I’ve heard similar things with start-up and traditional banks. They say that our aim is to ensure the customer can do everything digitally. But that is not about the customer service or experience in many cases. It is the aim to ensure the customer does not need to contact the company. That saves costs and means you don’t have to have any customer service people.

Even if you do have customer service people, the experience is awful. The number of times you call a company and their service line answers: sorry, we are experiencing too many calls right now. Please use our online service or be prepared to wait 24 hours for someone to answer your questions.

This is the world we live in but the world we live in is ridiculous.

Years ago, you would call and be answered fast. I remember dealing with one bank and their view was that if the phone rang more than three times it was unacceptable. Now, these companies are happy if the customer sits for an hour waiting for service.

The issue with this is that when you are dealing with customers who have spent thousand with the firm, can you not just answer issues?

My guess is that management have decided that customers don’t have issues. The aim is to automate the processes so much, that you don’t need to deal with customers and their issues. The whole thing should be self-serviced. That way, there’s zero cost overhead.

This would be true, but there will always be the 1 in a 100 or million where the process breaks down. That is when the customer is floundering and lost. It is when they need the greatest help and support. And that is where the issue lies, because most companies are not there anymore, when the customer is floundering and lost.

So, we sit and wait an hour to get hold of someone who can quickly deal with a basic issue, e.g. I got the time and date wrong for my booking; I cannot see my booking in my account; I cannot login; I’ve not received this payment; and so on.

It is as this point that the customer needs the most help and the company ghosts you.

Digital does not mean uncontactable. Digital means automate everything but be there when it doesn’t work. It amazes me how companies have misunderstood this process. Oh, and in the meantime, I’ve decided I will never deal with that company, the one who doesn’t provide a human contact, ever again.

Chris Skinner Author Avatar

Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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