Georgina Guedes

Think of your customers

2012-03-23 12:10

Georgina Guedes

Last week I e-mailed a new client for the first time. I was full of first-contact perkiness and pleasantries, communicating effectively while conveying that here is a pleasant person that you’ll be dealing with from now on.

Happy with the e-mail, I pressed Send with a little spring in my finger. About two seconds later, I received an Access Denied e-mail in my inbox. Like many large corporations, my new client blocks e-mails sent from any Gmail account.

Fortunately, in this case, someone at the company was able to whitelist me fairly promptly, allowing all future mails to zap straight through. However, I don’t believe that it is ever sound policy for an organisation - especially one that has any customer service aspect - to blacklist server domains like Gmail.

Gmail is one of many web-based e-mail providers. Because of this, people can use it to send spam. But for a company to have a policy blocking all mail that arrives from the Gmail domain means that they’ll be inconveniencing the scores of legitimate users who have migrated to the provider because it is, quite simply, the best email programme out there.

You see a lot of this kind of thinking at companies - especially banks. Earlier this year, after my wallet was lost, I had to replace my ATM cards at two different banks - Absa and Standard. Absa made me jump through various hoops with reference numbers and a 48-hour waiting period. Standard Bank replaced my card while I stood in a calm, blue haze.

When I queried Absa about the various hoops, I was told that this was because of increasing card fraud. And yet Standard Bank seems able to ameliorate the risk without inconveniencing their customers.

As another example, I was buying petrol at the Killarney garage a couple of weeks ago. The attendant was great, but I had no loose change or other cash in my wallet, so I asked him to add a tip onto the petrol bill. He informed me that the garage no longer allows attendants to do this because one employee had been enthusiastically adding on his own tips, swindling all the local pensioners.

One dishonest employee doesn’t mean that all other employees should be inconvenienced and all customers prevented from giving a token of appreciation for pleasant service. Companies should look at their policies and think not of the security hole being patched, but of the other 99% of honest interactions that are now made inconvenient or impossible.

This is indicative of the kind of thinking that governs businesses that aren’t putting their customers first. In the case of the petrol station, what is communicated is, “We don’t trust our staff.” In the case of the bank, what is communicated is, “We don’t trust you.”

While everyone accepts measures to limit fraud or theft, when other banks, petrol stations or organisations don’t do it, it makes your customers resent you - never mind your employees who are losing out on tips.

And when the hoops are stacked up into a tunnel of inconvenience that customers have to crawl through for even the simplest of transactions, customers will start taking their business elsewhere.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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