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  • Nick Hague and Paul Hague

Are customers thick?

Our local bank has closed its doors to customers. All this is in the drive to greater efficiencies. There is an attempt to gloss over the customer service element by explaining that most visits to the bank are easily replaced by a phone call or an email. Hmmm. We’re not so sure. If you receive a cheque from someone, how do you pay it in to your bank nowadays? It seems that the simplest way is to fill in a bank gyro credit form, slip it in an envelope, and send it to your bank. Turn to the bank gyro credit form and after you have filled in the date, there is a line that takes up to 18 characters and requests “particulars for statement”. What on earth does that mean? Why can’t the designers of forms use plain English? For example, online banking apps use phrases such as “payee name or account number”. When has anyone that you know ever used the word “payee” in normal conversation? Why can’t it say “the person you want to pay”.


We are reminded of this because most of the calls made to call centres are avoidable. They are caused by baffling instructions, incomprehensible forms, delivery problems, confusing packaging and the like. We recall an example some years ago when we were carrying out market research for a large dairy company. Our findings showed that a significant number of people had a problem opening the packaging of one of the products. When we reported this to the executive team, the production manager dashed out of the room and returned with a sample of the product. He angrily tore off the lid, as he was used to doing many times a day, and exclaimed “what could be easier?”.


Here is the point. Banks use terminology day in and day out which they eventually begin to believe is common to all of us. Dairy companies open the tops of yogurt pots many times a day and are so used to it they can do it blindfold. They can’t imagine why anyone would struggle to perform such a simple task. As a result, they create products and services that have a chain reaction which may result in the customer refusing to buy the product or phoning a customer service centre. What is required is the ability to understand exactly how customers operate. It is that old adage “put yourself in your customer shoes”. Only then is it possible to tell the bits that hurt.

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