CRM...And The Real World - Part 1.

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I hate computers.

Now, coming from a person who's been involved with them since 1967, you might think that's a bit over the top.'s not *actually* the computers that's the problem, of course, it's the software - the programs that run in them, that I *really* hate.

I also hate ATMs. Now, that's a double whammy for the poor, dumb machines!

But, like computers on the desk, ATMs are everywhere, and by golly, there're *so* convenient, aren't they? However, now that we have ATMs and computers in an unholy alliance, specifically designed to ruin your day at any nanosecond, I was happy - *well, almost* - when I had to turn to the customer service desk at my local bank for help.

Y'see, the ATM had just swallowed my cash card and had issued this terse message: "Invalid transaction - card retained", to be immediately followed by another: "Please use another card and try again." Huh? I didn't *have* another card on me right now, did I! And, I knew that there was sufficient money in the account...

Naturally I was annoyed but, resisting the urge to give it a Coke machine kick, I went instead to the customer service desk to sort the problem out. Here, I thought, I'd get the attention I deserve as a good customer, you know, talk to a *real* person, blah, blah, blah...

Ever been to la-la land? Well, we all get there, once in a while I guess, 9.30 in the morning? Bear with me, for a few moments, while I relate the nadir of Customer Relationship Management - aka CRM for all internet aficionados - a la local bank style...

ME: " son, Danny Burke, asked me to get some money from the machine, and that one" - me pointing accusingly -"just upped and took it. Would you be able to help, please?" I smile helpfully (I tried to look a bit sheepish also - that sometimes helps).

SHE: "You shouldn't have done that!" Slightly frowning, and a bit of a sharp note to her voice.

ME (nonplussed, eyebrows raised): "Huh...what...oh, yes, well, he gave me his PIN...he's in school now" - glancing at my watch - "so, he can't be..."

SHE (cutting in): "You're not supposed to use his PIN - unless of course you're AUTHORIZED." Voice definitely rising now, but not yet shrill. Glares at me, accusingly.

ME (defensively and now, a bit angry): "Hey...I know about PINs and their use...and I don't need a lecture from you!" (glaring back now). I had been part of the online systems development team, at one of the major Canadian banks, in the mid, I knew whereof I spoke.

SHE (slightly retreating now): "Well!" A pause. "Well, where is the card, you say?" I point to the machine again.
"Well, I suppose I'll go and get moment...please" (almost an afterthought, by the sound of it).

She stalks off. Idly, I contemplate darkly how hard I can jam some old receipts down an ATM slot when I leave...if I ever get outta here, as the band said, yeah, if I *ever* get outta here...where are *my* wings, I wonder?

Her shrill voice breaks my vengeful reverie.

SHE: "Well, here it is," waving it about triumphantly, "but you can't have the card back. It's *not* yours, you'll have to get authorization from your son...a pick it up." Emphatically, she puts the card in a drawer, slams it shut. Thud! Smiling now, full set of ivories, dripping insincerity.

ME: "Huh...what?" (I know, I know...I tend to repeat myself!) But, before I could go on...

SHE: "Anyway, what happened? Why did the ATM take the card? Did you enter something incorrectly?" I couldn't believe her accusing tone. At any moment, I expected her to start shaking her finger at me.

I look at her blankly, but I'm thinking. Now that was the funny thing about this whole mess - I'd followed everything to the, number: key in PIN, hit WITHDRAW CASH, select correct account...hmmm, must be SAVINGS, Danny has no CHEQUE account, but just after I key-entered 140, the ATM issued the above messages and ate the card. That's it...kaput! I felt that I'd just been executed. Maybe it was some kind of read error on the unit? Most unlikely...the card had already been accepted - PIN, account, the lot! But, what then?

ME (finally shrugging, shaking my head): "Hmmm...well, no...there's no obvious reason...that I can think of..." Brow furrows, bites lip pensively.

SHE (primly): "Never mind, never MIND, either fill this form out for a new card", handing me another bank form, as if I didn't have enough already, "or get your son to bring a letter back...and then you can get the card back!" She said the last with more false bonhomie, teeth glittering.

As I walked away muttering, I glanced back at the large sign above the area: "Customer Service Desk". Some service, I thought; more like "Customer Punishment Area - SFA (that's Self Flagellation Acceptable)"! My only option now was to return with some sort of letter to satisfy these goons and their much for *this* bank's customer relationship management program.

That woman on the service desk failed miserably at CRM: the cardinal rule is that the customer is always right, even when s/he's wrong. She didn't *have* to tell me that using another's PIN is not recommended; from Spitzbergen to Tierra del Fuego, everybody knows *that*, already! Additionally, she didn't even have the courtesy to address me by my name...

And, to cap it all, instead of apologizing to *me* for the inconvenience, she made me feel as though I had been the one to inconvenience *her*. Some service, huh?

Y'see, she was intent *only* on enforcing procedure, even to my detriment, instead of trying to get to the root cause of the problem...which, by the way, may also be happening to other customers. Even as I speak...

I was thinking about *that* as I drove back home, but put it aside, while I enlisted the aid of She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed. First things first, after all: get the card back, then worry about why I was card-swiped! This was going to be interesting, I thought, as I knew that Sherry had already had a run-in with the personnel in *that* particular branch some months ago...

Oh, the joys of online banking! ;-)

P.S. Part 2 will complete this sorry saga...

About the Author

Roger Burke has been involved with computers since 1967, and has managed to break quite a few, over the years. He, and his wife Sherry, are now actively engaged in online self-publishing and promoting specific affiliate programs at . If you have any comments or questions about this article, please send emails to .
Copyright 2001, Online-Wealth. All rights reserved.

Roger J. Burke