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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  • Sam - 2012-03-23 12:58

    Very true. But the worst aspect of all this is legislation, both municipal and country-wide. I cannot take my dog to the beach, because SOME PEOPLE allow their dogs to be a nuisance and don't pick up after them. I have to queue up for HOURS every 5 years for a new driver's licence, because SOME PEOPLE either forge theirs, or develop physical impairments that mean they shouldn't be driving, but continue to do so anyway. I cannot talk on my cellphone in a banking hall because SOME PEOPLE use cells to communicate with hoodlums waiting outside. Need I go on?

      alice.pretorius - 2012-03-23 14:35

      About the beaches - some of them are filthy any way, so why the hassle about dogs, as long as they on a leash

  • TheWeddingConnoisseur - 2012-03-23 13:09

    I think most companies are taking such drastic measures to protect themselves against fraud that they actually lose customers. As small example that irritates me is when you go shopping and you leave with a few bags and enter another shop, a security person at the door insist on stapeling 50 staples on the bags you are carrying that you actually have difficulty opening them when you get home. The same security person at the door insist on "checking" your slip and the contents in the bag of the things that you just bought at their store. I feel it is completely unnecessary, since all the shops these days have cameras everywhere and an alarm system at the door, should someone try to walk out with something they did not pay for...

      Steve - 2012-03-23 13:19

      If someone wants to tape or staple a bag I am carrying I tell them no. I've paid for that bag and may want to put other purchases in it to save buying more bags at every shop I visit. If they want to search my bags on the way out, I ask them if they have a warrant or are accusing me of theft.

      Pieter - 2012-03-23 13:42

      @ Steve - you present yourself like an unreasonble person with your statements. You must not be ignorant, theft is a big problem, and these are simple and easy measures to keep the opportunist from stealing. Those who want to steal will do so in another way, like taking an empty packet and a stapler with 50 staples with them to the store, load it up, staple it and walk out. If they have 2 bags and 100 staples, they can visit 2 stores and have a double take...

      Pieter - 2012-03-23 13:45

      @tWC - 50 staples? you know you are dramatizing. Do an experiment. Take your stapler and a bag and put 50 staples into it - and count them up to 50. The store would have closed by the time the security has put 50 staples into your bag. That - or you are just really unlucky...

      Steve - 2012-03-23 13:54

      @Pieter - I don't consider myself to be unreasonable, just a paying customer. I know theft is a major problem. I just think it would be better addressed by proper security measures. As you yourself commented, measures such as stapling bags only provide thieves with another method of getting away with it whilst inconveniencing the customer.

      Steve - 2012-03-23 14:14

      Just to add: I decline the request politely as I realise the person is just trying to do their job. It is the policy I object to and not the person trying to carry out that policy.

  • Jan - 2012-03-23 14:11

    I refuse to accept the harrassment by "security" employees who stand at doors and watch you pay for your goods and then want to check it - I just hand them the slip and walk past. Who do they distrust, me or their teller? Their employment has no benefit other than increasing client frustration, decreasing the country unemployment figures and pushing up prices due to increased overheads.

      pretoriawebdesigner - 2012-03-24 09:32

      I too will not be searched by security, If they want to accuse me of theft. best they call the police. I will not be treated like a criminal and have told many a security guard where to go. Call me unreasonable if you like, but I will not be treated unreasonably.

      skootzie - 2012-04-04 07:54

      It depends on the amount of items I have, if I have a bag of say 2-5 items I don't mind, but if I do a large amount of shopping the security can bugger off. Ever tried to get out of Makro on a Saturday (that is, after you've managed to get in, haha)? The tellers are reasonably fast, but the problem comes with the security people who want to count your trolley full of crap. They pick up your slip, go to the first item and begin to dig around inside your trolley for that one item. Find it, mark it and move on. Takes far too long; especially for someone such as myself who hates being in crowded/noisy areas.

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