Saturday, March 28, 2015

Citibank: Ignoring Customers Since Who Knows When

Last week, I was privileged to attend a dinner talk with a senior Amazon executive, and one thing he touched on was how he learned a new relationship with the customer at Amazon. At Amazon, he explained, customer feedback (aka complaints) are treated as a gift. The customer could simply have taken their business somewhere else, but instead they took the effort to tell you what is wrong with your business, and that is a gift! What an enlightened attitude, I thought.

Today, I am reminded that many businesses are still far from this ideal. In fact, some businesses deliberately put obstacles in the way of customers to provide feedback. Citibank is one example. When you try to write to them on their internal message system (they are too good to use regular email), you may often be confronted with this error message:

Whatever you just submitted is lost, and you have to rewrite it all again.

And every time I encounter this, I am hit by that pang of deja vu, because this has happened so many times before. But obviously I don't complain enough to Citibank that saving the message before submission has become second nature.

The second message I write is invariable much more hurried, much less polite, and I will be sure to include mention of the error and urge them to fix it. I can't help wondering how many people simply don't bother writing it the second time. Obviously, over the years, nothing has been done. I don't remember exactly the first time I encountered this, but here is another user's painful account from 2012.

She was a bit more scrupulous than I ... she managed to narrow it down to the apostrophe as the offending punctuation. By the time my message was accepted, I had removed the (), $, - and 's, what was probably my fifth attempt.

Interestingly, the reason for the above ordeal was I was writing to notify Citibank that I had gotten sufficiently frustrated with their phone operators over another issue to email the CEO of Credit Cards. Maybe someone should email the CEO of IT.