Hello, is anybody there?

Recently Vicky Boulton of Fuel told us how Vauxhall’s incessant communications were driving her to distraction by sending her a constant of barrage of emails, flyers and text messages. However it can be equally frustrating if a company takes the opposite approach and stays infuriatingly mute, as I found out recently…

How soon is ‘shortly’?

Having had a good experience with Barclays Business I naturally turned to their sister company Barclaycard when I wanted a corporate credit card, as I assumed the customer experience would be just as rewarding – how wrong I was! Initially all went to plan: The application was made, the card and PIN dutifully arrived, and my introductory pack said a temporary username and password, to allow me to access my account online, would be with me ‘shortly’. After waiting about two weeks I rang the helpline to see what was going on as I was concerned my temporary login details had been intercepted.  I was told no there was no problem as they can ‘take a while’ to arrive. So according to the letter they would arrive ‘shortly’, but according to their call centre it could take ‘a while’. Not exactly precise is it?

‘Some time’ later…

Over two months later I still had heard nothing from Barclaycard so I rang again and the message was still ‘it can take a while’. After explaining I already had been sent two monthly statements, but still didn’t have any way of dealing with the outstanding balance online, the operator tried to talk me through the process over the phone. Despite numerous attempts I kept getting an error trying to access a particular page which apparently was offline and so I was put on hold whilst she spoke to a colleague for advice. When she returned she informed me that their site doesn’t work on Apple Macs. Or Phones. Or any other device. Only desktop PCs. Really? Sorry are we in 1996 or something?

Sublime to the ridiculous

She tried to be as helpful as possible but the conversation went like this:

Call Centre: “Have you got a laptop”

Me: “Yes, but it is a Mac one”

Call Centre: “Could you access the site at your company’s office?”

Me: “This is my office”

Call Centre: “Could you go to a computer shop?”

Me: “Sorry I am not buying a PC simply to access your site.”

After this debacle I contacted Barclaycard on Twitter to tell them how aggrieved I was and how I couldn’t believe their site was so archaic. They responded in about five minutes which was great, but after a quick round of direct messages they informed me that they only dealt with personal Barclaycards, and that there was a separate address for business cards. They did however pass my message to this department so they could contact me. Which they did – although it took about three days!

What’s going on?

On the call I was informed that the existing online system is a bit erratic when it comes to Macs (which frankly would have been unacceptable in 2006 let alone now), but their bright and shiny new system worked with it perfectly. The problem was that the new system log-in details were being rolled out in batches so it could be ‘a while’ before I get them, now where have I heard that phrase before?

It’s not rocket-science…

All of this frustration and wasted time could have been prevented by explaining in the introductory letter that the new login information would be on its way, and by providing a clear date by which it should arrive. It could then have also given instructions on how to use the existing system using a PC, and that Mac users might find they have intermittent success. This would have been annoying, but far less so because I would have known what to expect.

I always strive to keep my clients informed at every step of their project, because I know what it is like to be left to guess. I try to set expectations of what will happen and by when and I inform them when there is a change that will affect them. I always aim to strike the right balance between communicating effectively and bombarding them to the point of frustration, and I like to think I get it about right. I also hope that the open communication I encourage means that my clients will tell me if I get it wrong!

If you have a project you’d like to discuss I’d be happy to come and talk to about it, afterall that is the first step in providing adequate communication – understanding the clients needs. Call me today to arrange a meeting.

And if you want to know how it feels to get too much communication then read about Vicky’s frustration with Vauxhall here.

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