I had some fraud on my credit card the other day. My experience resolving it is a great example of how to think about customer experience. It’s easily understood using the language of jobs-to-be-done, but I find it more interesting to have a human look at my experience to understand where the bank can improve.
I don’t believe this is symptomatic of my particular bank… rather it’s a symptom of the way traditional companies find it difficult to think differently about how they deliver value and execute given a modern experience-focused market context.
Before I analyze my experience, let me share a relatively recent true-customer story.
Determining ROI for an API
The customer, also a bank, had a high-visibility, tight-deadline project to deliver an API for one of their applications. The bank’s customers of this particular application had been getting data out of their application by scraping web pages (a technique that’s both bad for the bank and the customer).
Finally, one large customer threatened to leave if they couldn’t get direct access to the data (via an API).
I was at dinner with the customer after a day spent understanding their constraints and some of the issues they were having. In particular, they were trying to deliver a secure API and an API developer portal for customers. As we got to talking, they mentioned that they had been aware of their customers’ need for some time, but couldn’t figure out an ROI for delivering an API. After all, it’s not an ‘upcharge’ to the customer and once delivering the implication is that (1) there would be long term support for the API, and (2) there would be help provided by the bank to customers to understand how to use it well.
It was only when the customer threatened to leave that the bank was forced to deliver, hence the tight time-frame.
It turns out, the bank is aware of other customers using other of their applications with the same need for an API. Applications where they had a similar difficulty coming up with an ROI to justify an API program.
I asked the obvious question (you know what I’m about to type, right?)…
Now that you’re doing the first API because a customer threatened to leave, are you going to do the other APIs without first trying to figure out an ROI? After all, you don’t want to wait until the customers get so upset they threaten to leave. Right?
I got a sheepish grin, and definitive “No, we’re going to wait until they threaten to leave.”
Realize, these were executive meetings, not low-level developers. These were the people that could make these decisions… yet they were beholden to an old model of measuring return on investment that clearly wasn’t working for this aspect of their business.
I’ve written about the challenge to existing ROI methodologies before (using Delta’s mobile app as an example), but as an observer. In this case, I was literally talking to the people making decisions, and not decisions in abstract. They waited until a customer threatened to leave, were flailing to meet timelines as a result, and saw parallel situations with other applications and yet were still sticking to their old way of thinking.
It stuck with me. Frankly, I get frustrated. Not at the customer. I get frustrated because I have a picture in my head and I’m not communicating it well enough to get people/companies to change their behaviors. And, it’s with this in mind that I experienced my own bank’s credit card fraud process this past week.
Their Process (The Bank’s Jobs)
It is, in fact, better than it had been.
When they detect fraud, I get a text message. If I reply that I don’t recognize the transaction my card is shut down to prevent further fraud.
I can imagine the internal conversations talking about relevant technologies:
- Improve fraud detection. Using AI (presumably, though it’s most likely Complex Event Processing and simple rules… more on that when it comes to my job) to detect fraud improves detection
- Lower cost of fraud identification. Real time messaging for interacting with customers and thereby saving call-center costs because they need fewer customer service people to call and investigate fraudulent-appearing transactions
- Minimize fraud once identified. Instantly shutting down cards to prevent fraud losses (for international readers, not sure if it’s the same everywhere, but in the US the banks are responsible for credit card fraud, not consumers)
This is all good… for the bank. After all, they’re the ones that bear the burden of call-center costs. They’re the ones that bear the cost of fraud. Detecting fraud more accurately, lowering the cost of investigating whether it’s actually fraud, and preventing more fraud on compromised cards… all jobs for the bank. Which probably explains why my experience (as a customer) was so incredibly bad.
How the Process Failed the Customer
Let’s see where their process failed me:
- After I responded to the initial text, they put the burden on me by texting me to call their customer center. (I did not, I have other credit cards)
- I had no idea what was going on… it’s fair to assume that if they detect fraud and shut down my card, that they’re going to send me new ones (they did not)
- Two other family members using the same card were not notified that their cards were shut down as well (there were two other cards, which meant that I briefly became a family budget help desk since we use different cards for different categories of spending and want to keep our budgeting straight)
- About a day later, I got a phone call from their fraud department computer… a computer that then put me on hold when I indicated I wanted to talk about the fraud. After 5 minutes on a computer generated hold, I hung up, frustrated.
- A day later I called to resolve the issue. I was passed around to three or four different people because only certain people can deal with fraud. Each time, I had to repeat myself and answer security theater questions. This was especially frustrating because:
- It was a Saturday morning, time I should be spending with my family
- The day before Marriott announced a breach and all the information they were using to “verify my identity” were caught up in the breach so I realized that this was a ridiculous exercise. You may think that I should give them a break, after all how would my bank know if I was a Marriott customer? Well, coincidentally, my bank knows I’m a Marriott customer because I use their Marriott credit card. (So, no AI… mostly likely silo-ed rules based on the bank’s determination of fraud, not AI based on my behavior.)
- Call center people were patronizingly sweet with their “what can I do to help?” when apparently all most of them can do is transfer a phone line.
- It turns out, even though I eventually got frustrated and hung up, I did get far along enough in the process to have my cards replaced. I did not get any notification that this was the case, though when I looked in my Apple Wallet I did see that the last four digits of the credit card in my wallet had changed.
- Not knowing what was going on, I called again on Monday. After 30 minutes I got through to someone who could help me and share that everything was taken care of… and that new fraudulent charges that I noticed were removed from my account.
I want you to keep in mind, not only am I a customer… I’m what’s considered a Private Client. Meaning, presumably, I’d have better service than non-Private Clients. What I’m describing to you is this bank’s premier service.
The Jobs I Needed Done
In the course of my hour or so on the phone with the bank, I fine tuned my pitch.
I needed help with three things:
- Replacement cards for all cards impacted (and confirmation / delivery timeframes)
- Continuity with existing recurring payments (the real reason I called on Monday was because as it was the end of the month, some recurring charges were failing and I was going to have to track down all the places I used this card and update it)
- Removal of fraudulent charges (I noticed two new ones that I hadn’t seen before)
With respect to #1 above… once the cards were shut down, I (and other card holders) should simply have been sent a message that said “replacement cards were sent, they’ll arrive on X day.”
Why leave me hanging with uncertainty?
With respect to #2, I suspect this is the most difficult of the three requests I had. Obviously, the burden of updating all of these (and any fees I incur for late payments) is on me. However, this is not an unsolvable problem… because of my experience with Apple Wallet. The card in there is updated automatically. That means, if I use, for example, Uber, I can instantly use Uber using that card — which remember, represents one of my family’s budget envelopes so it’s important to me not to have to use another card. So, if they can update Apple Pay automatically, why can’t they update my children’s swimming pool account? (I know why, but not why they’re not working on solving this problem.)
That said, if they’re focusing on my job, this is something they’d try to solve.
Finally, #3… there were two charges for something I’ve never charged before… at a place that I have never charged something before. There were other charges that they questioned me about, though they were charges at places that I charge at almost every day (the local Whole Foods).
Couldn’t they present me with a checklist of suspect transactions, and a URL where I can quickly take a look and help them identify the transactions that didn’t look right? Maybe they could rank them and have a shaded red/yellow/green background behind the list so it’s easy for me to help them?
Along those lines with respect to item #2 above, why can’t they keep that card alive for any charges that have happened in the past… and then send me a notification in a month about which recurring payments I needed to transition to the new card?
This isn’t complex. Most of what I’m suggesting uses simple existing technologies (doesn’t require fancy AI or blockchain, or anything). Frankly, it’s simply about whether they care enough about my job or whether they’re selfishly only considering their own.
The Business Impact
The banks know how hard it is to change accounts. There’s also quite a lot of lock-in. I wanted that specific rewards card so there really isn’t much substitution in that regard. So in fact, it may be “good business” to not spend money on my jobs considering that it’s going to take a very high level of dissatisfaction for me to leave.
That said let’s think about two elements of the bank’s business once again.
1. Top of Wallet
“Top of Wallet” is a phrase the retail credit card industry uses to express their business goal of becoming the card their customers uses first for any transaction.
These companies pay hundreds of dollars (in marketing spend) per customer to win the top of wallet space; and the difference between being top of wallet or not can be measured. This is something the business side of cards understands.
Well, the longer it takes for fraud to get resolved, the longer there is a chance for the customer to develop a habit to use a different card. They spend so much money to win these customers’ top spots, and then are willing to give it away by not paying attention to the customers’ point-of-view of their fraud process.
It really blows me away to see this disconnect between the business and the technology, when there’s such a discrete set of business measurements to the business for the impact.
Even if I’m using another card, there’s opportunity to connect with the customer around this… imagine if every day that this was ongoing I got an authentically-constructive message from the bank:
- “We detected fraud, new cards are on the way you should have them Monday.”
- “Hey, it’s Monday. Your cards were delivered, please have a look for them and activate them.”
- “I see you’ve activated them, is everything working ok? Let us know, and we’ll give you a shout to help if not.”
- “You just got a recurring payment request… we’ve approved it because we know the vendor and the amount is similar to the past, but please update the payment card on your kids’s swimming lessons.”
None of this would be hard, and it adds a real human touch to show me that the bank has empathy with the disruption this has caused me and is going to make sure they do what they can.
2. Digital Wallets Are “Better” Than Physical Cards
Definition of better?
- More secure
- Instant replacement
- Faster at retail point-of-sale
- For digital commerce, improves shopping cart experience
- When a physical card is lost, there’s an instant opportunity to create new consumer habits around digital wallet use.
- The main benefit to the bank is that it helps with the top of wallet issue… customers who lose their cards can use their phone to pay with their new card instantly.
Let’s look at the second bullet above, because this has always screamed “OPPORTUNITY!!!” to me.
I have my credit card in my Apple Wallet. The physical card is lost or stolen. I call for a replacement to be sent. By the time I’m off the phone with the bank, a new “card” is already configured in my digital wallet and ready to go (at least on Apple Pay).
With instant replacement via a digital wallet, losing a card (to fraud or otherwise) reduces the opportunity for the customer to use a competitive card… assuming they’re aware and willing to try a new behavior.
Talk to the business and they’ll tell you that behavioral changes are a risky time for established vendors (or opportunistic times for enterprising vendors).
Why not own the behavioral change by using the replacement card process as the opportunity to influence the adoption of the new behavior?
This is such an important (and obvious) question.
Customer service should coach customers through this behavioral change because it benefits the customer and the bank. A bank could even offer a small financial incentive (for example, $10 purchase credit) if the customer is new to digital payments and uses it before the replacement card is activated. $10 is small when it comes to vying for top of wallet placement.
A Place for Empathy
This post is long enough. As with many others, I write for myself as much as for anyone who stumbles on this. Especially at 2500+ words! A post like this helps me understand what I’ve experienced and feeds into the sales and thought leadership methodology I’ve created over at Presales Sensei.
In closing, I would like to point out the importance of empathy on a product or marketing team. It seems obvious, but companies will have persona owners and product owners, but how do those roles do when it comes to empathy for their customers?
I believe empathy is a critical component of the process as companies try to become more customer experience driven. It’s important to consider customer experience, yet so often as the conversation moves to improving experience, it shifts from customer experience to user experience (UI design). Crazy stuff, and so obvious.
Given my experience, I’m hard pressed to believe my bank even considers me at all.