There is an adage about plane crashes, that it takes a row of many errors to cause a single plane crash. Back-up systems on everything mean a single problem will just about never bring a plane down, but when multiple issues coincide, sometimes it’s finally enough to kill and maim.
By the same count, product failure, in the sense of consistent, endemic, repeated product failure that is never addressed by the service provider is actually very similar. It speaks to far more than the product breakdown itself.
It can only happen when the law allows it so the provider won’t get sued: so it requires a poor regulatory environment.
It can only happen when customer service is poor, and internal systems and processes weak, which only happens in organisations that have lost sight of the value of customer satisfaction, the merit of a strong public reputation, and the pride in delivering a functional service.
Indeed, a case in point is Barclays Bank of Kenya’s decision to run a faulty VISA card service, which speaks to many issues beyond a card that very regularly fails.
With normal VISA services, once in many thousands of transactions, a transaction can fail, yet funds are debited from your bank account.
The way that VISA works means those funds are then automatically refunded to the customer within 72 hours: the customer doesn’t even need to report the issue. That occasional glitch, once every three years or so, is irritating, but barely more. It’s hardly even memorable.
BBK, however, provides a card that fails at a rate of perhaps one in every 10 or 15 transactions, sometimes several times in a week, normally at least monthly, taking funds that are left unrefunded for, the bank says variously, 14, 30 or even 49 days.
That isn’t irritating, it’s budget havoc, pushing customers into space over and over again where their money is lost for weeks on a bill that remains unpaid and must still be settled some other way.
It doesn’t appear to be because VISA offers a vastly inferior service in Kenya. I personally ran two VISA cards with Chase Bank, and those cards never failed.
Yet, in Barclay’s case, the problem is compounded and supported by customer service and management issues.
Phone calls to the bank see customers told to report by email: nothing can be resolved without written complaints. Then the bank takes ages to respond to the emails, and often never does.
Nor will it explain why the failure is so regular. Clearly, the customer has no right to know why Sh11,000, Sh34,000, Sh61,000 or this month’s latest amount has been falsely deducted from THEIR money, and cannot be refunded in a direct and normal fashion.
The head of card services simply states there is no problem: as bald as that. Once pushed to finally investigate, emails promising feedback in a week lead to no feedback even weeks later, just silence. And the card keeps failing.
Indeed, a failing card complaint can even be characterised by this particular bank as a mad customer, despite a trail of transaction failures and false debits, struggles for refunds, and strings of complaints that are in black and white, facts. Thus, for the bank, a stark factual history of excessive product failure is not, of itself, a cause for action. It doesn’t even merit a reply.
Any customer who reports it is just a trouble maker and should settle down to the card failure. And there sits a problem that can help no business anywhere in building growth and customer retention.
Banks are not entitled to keep removing funds from customers’ accounts to go to no payee, nowhere, and resist refunding them. And if they do, the problem is not the customer.
The problem is the service, all the way from faulty product to the entire environment that allows that service to be offered for sale, and still offered when it isn’t working, as ‘fit’ for all those troublesome customers who think their money is their own.