Archive for the ‘Customer Service’ Category

The high price of call handling times

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

I was at a large telco last week chatting to the manager of a 1,000 seat call centre.

We were talking through the inconveniences that agents have to go through in terms of navigating through a variety of systems just to give the customer what they needed, in this case upgrading their contract.

The problems were obvious in terms of the corporate systems.  Like any other enterprise, these were divided into functional silos paying little regard to the business process.  However, additional difficulty had been added by the use of complex spreadsheets as workarounds for missing system functionality.  Am I painting a grim picture?  Not at all – I see this in every large call centre, not to mention back office.  This is the norm for operational managers – they come to expect it.


Barclaycard “joined-up” thinking

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

There’s a mood of change at Barclaycard.  Once seen as the problem child of the Barclays Group, it appears to be much more loved these days.  A recent trading update advised of strong profit growth in the UK division and the US arm on course to make a profit in 2007.

It’s not just improvement in bad debt provisions.  A more independent focus and innovation (rare in financial services) is driving the brand forwards.

I criticised Barclaycard for lack of ambition when they launched the One Pulse card.  I feel absolutely certain that their recent decision to invest in mobile payment market testing, is a direct response to my post.  🙂

Of course, it is impossible for any organisation, no matter how large, to do this on their own.  But all the technologies already exist and it only takes some co-operation on the technical as well as commercial side between the different parties to make things work for the customer.  In this case the parties are Barclaycard (banking), Nokia (handset manufacturer), O2 (mobile network), TfL (Transport for London), Visa (card issuer), TranSys (consortium that runs the Oyster proximity payment system).

What a fabulous piece of joined up thinking!  I’d love to be one of the guinea pigs.  Furthermore, I am already a customer of every one of these organisations.  The bad news?  There are only 500 trial places available.  Anyone know how I can get on the list???

iPhone is too expensive

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Whilst on the subject of mobile technology this morning, I was not surprised to stumble across a piece reporting that the launch of Apple’s iPhone in the UK appears to be flopping.

I opened this weblog in Feb 2007 with a post extolling my disinterest in the iPhone.  Sure, Apple is a master of design, especially the user interface and experience, but price is a big buying factor too and, to be frank, Apple has overestimated how much people are prepared to pay for these advantages.

The deal offered to operators (only O2 was brave enough to take it up) was vastly over-priced and smacks of arrogance.  Apple is in danger of losing its cool image if it continues to expect its customers to fork out such huge sums for products that are, at best, marginal enhancements on existing technology.  And worse, although I haven’t used one myself, I hear that SMS text messages are really tricky, and the iPhone cannot even access 3G services.

Personally, I may look into the price of an iPod Touch but I won’t be bothering with this version of the iPhone.

In the unlikely event that you were thinking of buying me an iPhone for Christmas, could I ask you to think again and perhaps bring a bottle of wine instead?

Mobile phone ≠ wallet…yet

Monday, November 26th, 2007

I am still not sure how I ever got onto this soap box, since there is no specific implication for Blue Prism. I just think it’s common sense that if I have to carry my mobile phone everywhere I go, why can’t I also use it as my wallet?

Membership cards, physical access, small payments, car key, house key, TV remote control are just some of the many applications my current mobile phone could probably already be adapted to manage, if only the interaction was enabled by the various vendors agreeing standards and commercial terms.

At least contactless small payments (surely one of the simplest applications) is finally on the way in the UK.  It’s good to see that Royal Bank of Scotland heard my plea and is starting to pilot this technology in Edinburgh.

Contactless payments

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

I don’t know why I have such an interest in this topic but having just read this Finextra report I am still pining for a leap forward in contactless payment technology.  Or not so much a leap forward in technology, as a bit of joined up thinking and collaboration.

I don’t want a VISA key fob, a payment card or a calculator with proximity technology.  I don’t want anything new to carry round.  Quite the reverse, I would like to greatly reduce all the crap in my pockets, so please my I have my contactless payment technology installed in my mobile phone?

If we are really in a so-called technological revolution, why do I still need a wallet, or a key ring for that matter?

Another (tiny) step towards electronic wallets

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

My dream of using my mobile phone to replace all the useless tangible items in my wallet (like cash, credit cards, debit cards, memberships cards, receipts, loyalty cards etc) is clearly some way off, in the UK at least.

Royal Bank of Scotland is the latest UK bank to offer a contactless payment card.  But targeting 12 McDonald restaurants in London by October as being capable of taking the payment?  Exactly what use is that?

Come on UK banks – we need more ambition here.  The technology is surely available to jump the next 14 tiny steps and take one giant leap into the 21st century by enabling us to use our mobile phones as wallets?

Maybe APACS needs to get together with the mobile phone manufacturers and create some standards?  Or maybe we need to think more widely.  Is this a job for Monitise?  I suppose Monitise are too payments focussed, so to get loyalty/membership cards in the mix perhaps Nectar need to get involved too?

Or maybe there is a new business venture here – perhaps a spin-off from a major tech company, a mobile phone manufacture or even a forward thinking bank?

Surely the rest of the world is miles ahead of the UK here – can anyone enlighten me?

UK Banks are not as evil as you might think

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

When you work in an industry as highly regulated as financial services (and I have worked there both directly, and indirectly) you come to expect the odd scandal.  Pensions mis-selling, current account charges, ATM usage fees are just a handful of the recent uproars from financial services customers in the UK.

The latest decent sized revolt has been over “unfair” bank charges imposed on customers whose accounts have gone beyond their borrowing limits.

There is a danger of victimless crime syndrome here.  People who say “the Government should pay for our rubbish to be recycled” conveniently ignoring the fact that the Government is funded by us, the taxpayers.  People who make bogus insurance claims believing that “the insurance company has loads of cash and can afford it”, conveniently ignoring the fact that if everyone took that view, then the insurance industry would implode, meanwhile the do-gooders suffer ever increasing premiums.


IBM employees, empowered or restricted?

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

Roo Reynold’s post IBM virtual world guidelines outlines the recently launched “code of conduct for IBMers in virtual worlds”.  This adds to previously published guidelines for blogging and general business conduct.

Obviously, as an employee, Roo is bound by these new rules to take a positive stance on them isn’t he?  Maybe?  Maybe not.

It’s easy to knock the gorillas and I often do, but on this occasion I think IBM has got it about right.  The very fact that a code of conduct exists acknowledges that IBM:

a) is encouraging its employees to participate online for the corporate good; and

b) acknowledges that in such a large organisation there has to be some control (but not too much restraint).

In our small company, anyone who wants to participate in online worlds, blog, or commentate, and purport to represent Blue Prism can do so, because they can speak directly to a director if in any doubt.  But there needs to be some guidelines surely?

Do you remember when the inimitable Dale Carnegie said “dress for the job you want tomorrow, not the one you had yesterday”?  Of course “dress” was a proxy for the way you think, and the way you act in all respects.  One of our consultants once asked me what our dress code was.  I told him that, when on customer site, he should dress as well as the best dressed customer rep (but not better).  This is also a proxy for fitting in with our customers and business partners in all regards and as a simple principle is easily understood, if a tad primitive.  I think this extrapolates well into a “code of conduct” for online behaviour too.

IBM’s rules do cover well this principle of being respectful and protective of the brand but also appropriate to the environment of the virtual world.

The gorillas don’t have the luxury of our much looser “common sense” interpretation, and I think IBM is more empowering its employees than restricting them with this code of conduct.

Office space in the enterprise

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

It’s interesting to note how different enterprises treat their staff in respect of the office space they provide.

I was at a large UK retailer for a meeting, yesterday.  Retailers are not renowned for overpaying their staff or providing luxurious facilities.  However there has to be an understanding that, if you want your staff to be the smiling face of your company you better treat them with respect.

From the outside the building looked like a massive tin shed with porthole sized windows.  From the inside the floor plan was huge and lacked natural light.  However, there was smart furniture, well laid out with sound deadening screens where required.  There was air conditioning.  IT facilities looked excellent on the face of it.  An abundance of meeting rooms was supplemented by clever (and cheap) refreshment areas.  I thought they had made every effort to make the best of a difficult environment.  The staff seemed mostly upbeat and good humoured as far as I could tell.

On the walk back to the car park I passed the adjacent building which, although identical in architecture, contained a different company, a gambling operation that has been around for donkey’s years.  Without even going into the building I could see the difference.  Windows and doors were wide open as staff struggled in the heat.  The people I saw moping in and out of the building looked bored.  There were no external recreation areas.  The reception was small and uninviting.

I am not sure if this is about the (internet driven) resurgence in parts of the retailing sector and a decline in old gambling formats causing affordability issues, or whether it’s a reflection of two differing management styles.  Either way, I know which company I would rather work for – it’s not just about wages.

The future of payments in London?

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

Had to laugh at this announcement from Barclaycard.

The three in one “OnePulse”card:

1.  Chip and PIN card – your regular debit card
2.  Contactless payment card (but only in participating retailers and only in London)
3.  Oyster card (contactless travelcard for the London Underground)

Barclaycard call this “the future of payments in London” which really falls short in ambition for me.

Why can’t I import all that functionality (and more) onto my mobile phone so I don’t need a card at all?  That sounds like the future of global payments.

However, despite this derisory post, I must admit that I will be applying for one, as it does look like the best we’ve got in the UK right now, and at least it means my Oyster Card can go in the bin.  That is, unless Barclaycard have read this and terminate me as a customer! 🙂