One fine Sunday morning, instead of the usual ‘Good Morning’ messages, I woke up with a nice little SMS from my bank saying that my XXXXABCD numbered credit card has been blocked. In a normal course I would have quickly re-confirmed my card numbers and decided on a suitable course of action.
Now, I couldn’t recall immediately which card this was, as the message said the card has been blocked due to ‘inactivity for more than a year’. I thought to myself, “no need to panic yet, let’s find out in a while”. So after my morning dose of emails and Sunday chores, I got to read the message carefully.
Customer Experience Void
The message itself was completely out of context and provided little information that would prove to be useful. Instead, what it did successfully was induce a little irritation and dissatisfaction. Here’s a detailed account of my journey – the user’s journey.
1. Cryptic messages creating confusion
First up, I couldn’t recognize for which purpose I had ordered the card. Because it mentioned a cryptic ‘$PRODUCT_NAME$’. What could it be? It being so cryptic, I wasn’t sure whether this message was authentic. This made me think whether it’s a spam, phishing, or something else entirely. In any condition I ended up casting doubt on the bank’s security.
2. Out-of-context communication
Then it got me thinking, If the card was not in use for more than a year and the bank knew about it all along, then why wasn’t I reminded in the first place? At least that’s my expectation as a customer, to be reminded and updated about any out-of-the-ordinary usage patterns.
Blocking a customer’s credit card is a severe action. For any bank to do so, it is mandatory that one notifies and reaches out to the customer for a few times. My feelings were – if you feel it is important to tell me that the card has been blocked, isn’t it more important to provide some notification ahead of time?
3. Lack of empathy
As usual the card number was blocked with a series of X’s with only the last 4 digits showing. This is a good practice for ‘security reasons’ and I completely agree that security of customer data should be of paramount importance. Though there is a huge gap between users’ reality and expectations with the bank’s understanding.
In the current digital and cashless, paperless world, people are relying more on plastic and digital payments. I would imagine that on an average people would have 4-5 cards with them (debit and credit cards, not to mention the foreign currency travel cards that are temporary and used for a few months).
Considering this, how many people would remember the last 4 digits of all those cards belonging to various bank accounts? It is especially a daunting task when the card has not been operational for ‘one year’.
4. Failure to provide the right solution
The message instructed me to contact a ‘nearby branch to unblock the card’. It being a Sunday, of course, the nearest branches wouldn’t be operational. The bank should have this information before sending the message, and expecting the customer to take immediate action.
Imagine this was a card that I require immediately and was critical to be active on the same day. I would have no option to unblock, owing to the day and method of unblocking that was prescribed in the message.
5. Adding to the frustration of the customer
Having the ‘go to branch’ option closed, I tried the conventional customer care and dialed the toll-free number. I went through the whole – ’dial 1, dial 4, dial a, dial c…’ experience and was put on hold for umpteenth of minutes. By the 13th minute I got frustrated and ended the call.
6. Customer resorting to ignoring the communication
At this point, I have still not figured out which card this is as I couldn’t find it in my wallet or the usual places. Normal human behavior – the brain determined this message wasn’t that important and the memory of this message faded away, until after about 72 hours late night, I received another message.
This one was riddled with its own customer experience issues. The message asked me to ignore the previous one, informing that my card was still active. This filled my mind with a lot of questions and added to the previous confusion –
- Which was the card that you had blocked? Where is the correct card number? If I had deleted or failed to read carefully through the earlier message, how would I know which card I am being informed about?
- I hadn’t taken any action to unblock the card. Since the first message said, blocked due to inactivity – I am now unsure if someone has used this card for it to be active again? Adding slight panic to my pre-existing condition of confusion and irritation.
- If this was in fact an error from the bank, appreciate the candid ‘sorry’ in the message. However, there is no information about why this happened or any assurance that this would not happen in the future, putting doubts about having any further relationship with the bank.
What does this experience tell us?
A small message from the bank affected the customer experience so much, what would happen for larger issues customers face on a daily basis? This message was from one of the largest banks in India having a turnover of more than 1 lakh crore. If this bank is so naïve and ignorant about customer experience, imagine the state of smaller players in this space.
For the current customers and for the customers of tomorrow – it is imperative that banks put in more efforts on reshaping the customer experience – to be more relevant and to provide the right solution at the right time. In the current COVID-19 times, banks can lend support to its customers by practicing and enhancing digital services.
Delivering the right customer experience, adapting to the current demands and introducing more digital services will define the positive role banks will play in helping the society through the unpredictable times. Banks can make a difference by bringing in efficiency and stabilising the operations, building trust in the customers’ minds.