Coding matters: Notes from a difficult customer

Customer experience: 3 emoji faces with expressions of happy, neutral and unhappy. Used to rate customer satisfaction.

I've said this before. Your work matters. That applies if you are an analyst, technician, developer, tester, trainer, DBA or manager. Every person who has a role in a system affects its quality. And that impacts the customer.

There's a lot of buzz about customer experience (CX). We need to recognise the importance of that experience. But we also need to recognise that CX is about more than the app interface, or how the call centre staff greet you.

I've had quite a few negative CXes the past while. Maybe it's just me. My mother died recently, and grief makes it harder to be rational. I may have been a difficult customer. But my experiences had one thing in common: it wasn't the fault of the person interacting with me.

Don't skimp on user training

When project deadlines get tight, as they so often do, something has to give. Sometimes it's testing. Sometimes it's user training. A new or improved system doesn't help if the users don't know how to use it. And, ultimately, the customer suffers.

It is unfair that bereavement comes with lots of paperwork. I had to register my mother's estate with the Master of the High Court. The thought of queuing at the government offices in the city centre was awful. So I was relieved to find that a new online system for the Department of Justice recently went live.

The new system is ok. But after I had submitted everything, it informed me I still need to take in the original will. I decided to phone and check for any other requirements before I make the dreaded trip.

It took more than 25 calls to 5 different numbers before someone answered the phone. The "leave your number and we'll get back to you" option didn't work. Truly terrible customer experience, but that's not what I want to share with you.

Eventually I got Mr M's number. Mr M answered his phone (!) and was polite and professional. As an Assistant Master, he will use the new system. But he admitted that he didn't know how the system worked or what the new process is. It took 2 more days for him to find out that he needed to apply for access to the system. He wants to help me, but he doesn't know how. I'm still waiting for him to learn how to view my online application.

A little empathy goes a long way

I also had to contact the medical aid, the pension fund and the bank. The first two were helpful and sympathetic. I phoned the bank customer care line, because there was no other option on the website. After 6 minutes of prompts, I eventually got the choice to speak to a person. Again, annoying to any customer, but not unusual.

The bank consultant sent me to a department specifically for deceased estates. Of course, I had to hold. Most on-hold music is neutral or boring. The on-hold music for this department was upbeat rock/pop. I'm sure many attorneys and accountants phone. But some of the calls must be from bereaved relatives. It felt like a slap in the face. Didn't anyone notice that?

Yes, I am over-reacting. But I was upset enough to complain via the website. (In this case, the person I eventually spoke to was not pleasant, which upset me even more.)

Use what you've got

I often go to the municipal libraries to take out large print books for my father. The libraries have a system to track who takes out books and when.

Local government allegedly wants to know how many people use the libraries, to decide whether to keep them open. Do they use the library system to get statistics? No. Instead someone sits outside the library and makes me fill out a form every time I go into the library. That's all the person does. It's wasteful, annoying and inaccurate. And no-one tells you why. I confess that, before I knew the reason, I once filled in my name as Mickey Mouse.

I only discovered the reason for this because I asked a lot of questions. As I want to keep the libraries open, I comply. Maybe I should fill in the form twice every time...

Everyone is customer-facing

The experience at the Masters Office could have been improved by the implementation team. The experience at the bank might be due to a technician who didn't understand the bigger picture. The experience at the library was due to management.

I may be a difficult customer. But remember that your work is customer-facing, even if you never see a customer. Do you agree? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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