I’m starting a topic of conversation that I will be expanding upon over the next few months, which is ‘Has Customer Service got worse, not better over the last 10 years’.

To prove or disprove this I’m going to put forward my own experiences as examples of what’s good and what’s particularly bad and would love to hear from you as well, all examples or just thoughts on the matter are most welcome.

I’d like to find out what are the true notable exceptions of good service and try to understand how we need to truly and consistently define ‘good’.

I also want to share bad service, stuff that we accept on a day to day basis, but that really should not exist, the really frustrating silly stuff.

I think it’s an inescapable fact that despite the proliferation of ‘life changing technology’ such as the mobile phone, iPhone, laptops, self-service web sites, etc., the channels we have to support service delivery are generally far more complex, and when they don’t  work, are far more frustrating for the customer to handle. 

I want to be able to share recognition of whats good (and what’s not so good) in this new world of multi channel and ‘social’. 

Service Providers, from retail to utilities, with financial services in between have been trying to ‘educate’ customers that self-service is better, that we can find everything we want on the web site, that we don’t need to talk to anyone on the help desk. But is it the reality that they are looking for cheaper, cost effective options to handle the same service queries and problems rather than eliminate the causes of poor service.  Being driven by the financials rather than service experience?

Some of these developments have definitely made life both easier for the customer and cheaper for the business, but how many service providers or web sites can you include in this group.

My feeling is that they are in the low % overall. And this is what I want to prove or disprove with your help. 

Let me share a recent frustrating example;

I bank with HSBC and they have recently changed their security process that enables access to on  line banking.

Previously you had to enter account and pin codes, simple to use, but maybe not very secure. The benefit being my wife and I could easily access the account at any time as long as we had WiFi access.

Now we have a little security card that provides a different ‘live’ pin code every time you want to access the account. Very secure, but two problems.

We have been given only one security card even though we have a joint account (probably only works on one but not clear in supporting ‘blurb’ that came through with it), and I don’t want to carry it around with me in case I lose it.

Result is that I no longer use the on-line service when I am away from home and only use the service in the evenings or at weekends.

This then causes another problem. I frequently transfer money abroad and normally do this online. Unfortunately HSBC (and probably all other banks to be fair) only allow me to do this online between 8am and  3.30pm Monday to Friday. So it’s just another hassle of remembering to take the security card, which I don’t want to do,  then remembering to do the transaction within the set time frames. And to top it all off they charge me a whopping £9 for each electronic transfer after I’ve done all the work! Why?

It’s small stuff but really frustrating. It’s hurdles in the way of smooth service and ease of use. Surely with a little thought and awareness it’s also totally unnecessary.

My impression is that the ‘control’ arm of HSBC has overridden the ‘experience’ arm, or at least convinced them it’s better to make it harder to access your account at any time.

Maybe some of the money spent on the TV advertising could have been spent in re-thinking the processes around the customer experience, or at least showing that they have thought about it.

Please let me have your thoughts and examples  of good and bad, from the straightforward to the complexand maybe we can come up with some standards that represent best practice.