Customer Experience Is Not About Coffee

I have been trying to send a wire transfer for over a week now.

In the process, I’ve been asked dozens of times how my day is going, offered multiple cups of coffee, and declined repeated suggestions that perhaps I’d like to run a few errands while I wait. I’ve been smiled at, welcomed, and offered comfortable chairs.

My responses have gone from the standard and polite, “fine, thank you,” to the near-hysterical “not well” as tensions mounted. Still, no money arrived in the other person’s account.

As I had to explain to my friend in the United Kingdom who had not heard of the process, in the United States, one way of sending money from one person’s bank account to another’s is through the supposedly fast process of asking your bank to wire the money to the bank where the other person maintains an account.

It was in trying to execute this process that I came across this striking example of what I suspect is someone’s sincere attempt to improve the customer experience — gone very bad.

I bank at the local branch of a very large, very well-known American icon bank. I’ve stopped in dozens of times over the past years, usually with satisfactory results. However, this time, something was immediately different.

The two individuals who normally sit in the enclosed offices in the back of the bank — the ones who have always helped me send wire transfers in the past — have now been reassigned to stand in the middle of the bank and chat with customers as they come in. They smile, discuss the weather, offer drinks, and direct you to the spot where you can wait…and wait. While lines form and customers (well, at least I) fidget, as other appointments back up and deadlines slip past, they continue to make small talk with the customers who come into the branch for various transactions.

Finally, I’m directed to a junior person whom I’m assured will handle my transaction. Except that the junior person does not know how to send a wire transfer, so has to go in search of the senior greeters for instructions. More delays.

Finally the junior banker hand writes all the information, including complicated routing numbers and account numbers, into a carbon-backed form. I check that form over, and am assured that the information will be faithfully entered into a computer somewhere by someone else who will execute the transfer sometime today.

Two full days later, I get a call from the bank that the transfer has bounced back. The person to whom I’d given my word that I’d sent the money does not in fact have it in hand. By now this normally pleasant recipient is becoming more than a touch shrill.

Dropping everything else on my agenda, I go back to the bank to repeat the process — including more smiles (theirs, not mine this time), coffee, comfortable chairs — and time spent wondering why two of the presumably most competent people in the bank have been reassigned to meet and greet duty, while the business of the bank is slowly and poorly executed.

Nearly a week after I began the process, my wire transfer went through.

My experience would have been greatly enhanced by having my bank business transacted efficiently, quickly, and correctly — allowing me time when I was through to stroll down the street to Starbucks for coffee.

Do you share my pain? Have you had an obviously well-intentioned, but completely irrelevant customer experience lately?

View original post here, by Tammy Erickson @ Harvard Business Publishing