Who doesn’t know it? You find yourself in a situation where you expect action from the organisation where you purchase a product and/or service. For example, because in your opinion, the amount quoted or even the amount already debited from your bank balance does not match the agreements made earlier. In contacting customer service, you explain your situation and then naturally hope for understanding and action on the other side. And as it turns out, the understanding for your situation usually works. The sympathetic employee understands your situation, your question and your need. Yet all too often, that employee has no choice but to come back with the response: “I get your point and understand your expectations. But sorry, unfortunately our system cannot handle that”. The result is that two people are left feeling annoyed. Not only you because you were not helped, but certainly also the employee because he/she cannot help you as a customer.
Example: a large bank in the Netherlands
Recently, I spoke to Wilfred; who is a close acquaintance of mine. Besides knowing each other privately, we also philosophised about our mutual business interests. Wilfred has a nice company with young dynamic staff; very inspiring to see. In our conversation, one of the things I asked him was whether he also recognised the “unfortunately, our system can’t handle that”. That question instantly triggered him and his response was, “Well, I can tell you quite a lot about that. We have several such experiences. Let me explain one of them.”. And Wilfred began his story.
Well Joost, we have a wonderful company here that we are all proud of. And, of course, we are always developing. That includes branding and proper naming. It was a little over a year ago when we changed the name of our company. It was about a few nuances so that it becomes just a little clearer to our target group what we stand for. Then, of course, you have to formalise that name with all kinds of authorities. This went fine with some of them. But at our bank, one of the largest banks in the Netherlands, it was a major drama. Man man man, what a hassle. The procedure was already cumbersome, but the execution of it made no sense at all. We had to fill in all kinds of papers manually, sign and return them; something totally out of place in the time where we live. And then nothing, really nothing at all, happened. And no matter how we tried to chase the bank, nothing happened for months!
Of course, we had long been using our new name but for incoming and outgoing payments, we still had to use our old name. It was too crazy for words. The bank employee we contacted understood us completely and was embarrassed to say that there was nothing he could do about it. “I also think it’s terrible but our system just can’t handle it”; the bank employee informed us. It was a huge hassle for us as a company, which also cost us a lot of time and a lot of money. Well, it really was a very annoying situation.
And you know, Wilfred continued, it got even crazier. After several months, our new name had finally been implemented at the bank. Incoming and outgoing payments were now going fine, thankfully. Until we had another question: we applied for an extra bank card. That application too went through a complex procedure that is really out of date. And guess what? Indeed, after a few weeks we received the new bank card…with our company’s old name on it. And again, this hassle cost us a lot of time and a lot of money. Surely this cannot be true, sigh!
Fortunately, Wilfred was now able to laugh about it again but his conclusion did not lie: “Joost, how is this even possible? It’s really absurd. One of the largest banks in the Netherlands does not have the simplest matters concerning their primary product in order. Even I am just a little ashamed that this is happening in our country. It really is too sad for words.”.
The bigger picture
Wilfred’s story is not an isolated one. In fact, everyone knows stories like this. Often because people have experienced it themselves and perhaps even more often because a family member and/or close friend tell these kinds of stories at, say, a birthday. Fortunately, it is also becoming increasingly obvious in the news and people are speaking out about it. For instance, bigger problems like inflation, which we are now facing, cannot be adequately addressed structurally due to underlying IT issues. So, read the article showing that the government cannot quickly ease the pain of inflation due to outdated IT systems. And the same applied to other long-standing issues such as usurious policies, the corona measures, the surcharge affair and so on.
The fundamental problem is that in medium and large organisations in business, government and healthcare, there is a complex ICT landscape almost everywhere. And therefore customer service is not agile. No, of course it isn’t. That is rather logical when almost every organisation has to deal with:
- inflexible systems that squeak and creak
- many workarounds with ad hoc solutions
- fragmentation of knowledge in the organisation (islands)
- dependence on (often older) employees
- often even multiple complex ICT landscapes due to past mergers/acquisitions
- high costs to keep things running
- excessively long change lead times
- plus structural labour shortages in all industries
This obviously does not make the customer happy, and I can tell you: it does not make the employees of these medium and large organisations happy either. This is not motivating at all. In short: we really need serious action. Something significant needs to be done: back to basics and new ground rules of the game!
Back to basics
There is no point in muddling through in this way. What can be done is to learn from the past and give space to new smart solutions. Be open to real innovation from the ground up. And I’m not talking primarily about technology, absolutely not. No, I’m primarily talking about the rules of the game. Because the quote “unfortunately, our current system can’t handle that” implies that the employee and the customer follow the system. By quietly reading the previous sentence again and perhaps again, opportunities for a structural solution follow.
The quote should simply be changed to “of course, we are going to take care of that for you, and right now”. Then, in a friendly way, it is explained very simply what the customer can do himself/herself to get the answer to his/her question. And if that customer then wants extra support, the staff member will arrange it. This makes the customer happy and motivates the staff member. The customer gets new insights and the employee is proud of his/her solution. Mutually, the customer and the employee inspire each other. In short, the customer and the employee are leading; the systems follow.
These new rules of the game offer endless possibilities. It means that the employee can freely use his/her creativity to devise and realise all kinds of clever solution in the customer’s interest. This customer is then positively surprised with the unbelievable result. That doesn’t work just once. No, it always works; they are durable rules of the game.
It also means that we need very different systems that the current ones. The mindset of those new smart systems is based on putting creativity, freedom and responsibility at the heart of all employees and all customers.
I can imagine that if you are reading this you are like: it all sounds logical and simple, but it can’t all be that simple. Well, then I still like to challenge you to hold on to this simplicity and be open to being surprised. It is precisely the problems, the opportunities and the renewal of rules of the game that underpin SixBlocks solution: the smart platform for the durable and extreme simplification of business processes.
Naturally, I also shared my vision and my story with Wilfred. The sketch of “the bigger picture” made everything fall into place for Wilfred. Of course, this is the sad reason why so much still goes wrong in medium-sized and large organisations, he now understood. He realised that we/everyone as customers/citizens just have to be very careful that these unwieldy organisations deliver what they promise us. And the explanation of the vision of “back to basics” made Wilfred feel good. “Fortunately, guys like you dare to stick their necks out and think carefully about a durable smart solution to this kind of problem. And that solution especially needs to start coming soon.” is how Wilfred summed up the whole thing.
Read the story behind McDonald’s describing an example of how to go back to basics and start with new rules of the game here. If you want to know more about the why, how and what of SixBlocks solution and what this smart platform can do for your organisation, feel free to contact me. In that case, email your question to email@example.com.