Why is constant improvement such an alien concept in large organisations?

Warning! This is a bit of a rant. If you don’t like reading that sort of thing you should probably stop now.

This started the other day when I tried paying my first credit card bill. I ended up ringing LloydTSB’s phone bank just to sort it out. After being held by the hand through the whole ordeal I tried to point out to the lady that these steps were far from obvious and that they should do something about it. She responded with “it’s really quite easy once you know how to do it”. I pressed on and received a “one can always click around a bit and find out how to do it”. I wasn’t very impressed. I suggested that they ought to add a recipient automatically for settling credit card bills. The lady at LloydsTSB replied, with a very serious voice, “we can’t assume that our customers want to pay their credit card bills over the internet”. I responded, with slight disbelief in mine, “then they don’t have to click that particular link”. She didn’t seem to be convinced their customers possess enough intelligence for that though.

Of course I know it was futile trying to push through improvements by talking to what can’t be called much more than a helpdesk. However, I couldn’t let go of it so easily. I sent the following message through the internet banking system:

I just paid my first credit card bill. I decided to do it over the internet. Given the instructions on the back of the bill I thought it’d be easy, “select ‘Transfers & Payments’ and follow instructions on screen”.What I ACTUALLY had to do was:

  1. Choose the account I wanted to pay the bill from.
  2. Select ‘Transfers & Payments’.
  3. Choose to add recipient.
  4. Type in ‘lloydstsb’ and search for the company.
  5. Go through a rather long list of companies and find the one that matched my credit card type and number.
  6. Enter a reference, which in fact was my credit card number.
  7. Go back to ‘Transfers & Payments’ for the account I wanted to pay from.
  8. For the rest I could follow instructions on screen.

Far from as easy as the instructions on the bill suggest. I actually gave up and rang PhoneBank for help.

Suggestions for making it easier:

  • automatically add a recipient for the credit card, or
  • add more complete instructions on the back of the credit card bill

I hoped that this route might actually lead me to someone with at least an iota of intelligence within the company. Earlier today they dashed my hopes by sending me this email:

Dear Mr Magnus

Thank you for your e-mail about paying a bill online.

I’m sorry to hear that you had difficulty setting up a payment on your account. I have listed below step by step instructions on how to set up and make payments to your credit card.

  • Select the account you wish to pay the money from, this will be highlighted in blue,
  • Select ‘Transfers and Payments’ from the options menu on the left hand side,
  • Choose the option ‘Click here to add new recipient to your list’ located in the middle of the web page,
  • Select ‘pay a bill’,
  • In the ‘Find company’ field enter the card type that you hold, for example, if it was Lloyds TSB it would be ‘LTSB’ or ‘LLOYDS TSB’,
  • Choose the relevant card from the list and you can check you have the correct one by matching the first six digits of the card number.
  • Enter 16 digit reference number on the front of the credit card,
  • Re-enter the number,
  • Click ‘Add to my list’.

The payment arrangement should now be set up. To pay your credit card, click on the relevant option from the ‘Transfers and Payments’ screen.

The resulting rant lasted the better part of my lunch hour. It’s a good thing I have patient and understanding colleagues :-)

Being somewhat involved in OpenSource and therefore used to constant improvements of “products” I find it very strange when I come across a commercial company that displays such a dis-interest in improving their customers’ experience. Doesn’t it make financial sense for a bank to improve their online banking system? Are they not interested in making their customers satisfied and make sure they stay? I mean it’s not like LloydsTSB is the only bank in England. I wouldn’t be too surprised if they all are equally bad at this sort of thing, but I refuse to give up. I intend to have relationships with companies, especially with companies that play an important role in my life, like banks. I believe in constant improvement, on all levels in life, and I’ll keep on bringing that into the relationships I have.

I heard somewhere that a hero sees the world, not as it is, but as it ought to be. If that’s true then I plan on being a hero for the rest of my life.

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