The CX Rap Sheet: we name the guilty in their crimes against the customer

The CX Rap Sheet: we name the guilty in their crimes against the customer

Learning from other people’s mistakes 

We’ve been pleased to feature Don Hales’ Heroes and Villains series on The Next Ten Years and Don has bemoaned the fact that he gets more villains than heroes. Recognising that as a sad reality we present the first in a series of CX Rap Sheets, singling out organisations who manage to do the wrong thing, in the hope of learning how we can avoid their mistakes.

Tee off? Buggy off!

We’ve said before that the way you treat your vulnerable customers is a measure of how customer-centric you are. But a golf course operated by Brentwood Council proved itself to be pretty customer-hostile as far as golfer Paul Houghton was concerned. Mr Houghton lost his right leg in 2000 whilst working as a builder. He’s an accomplished golfer who’s represented England at disability golf 13 times. For the jobsworths at Hartswood Golf Course in Essex that’s not enough though: despite fairly clear evidence that he was in possession of a prosthetic leg they insisted on his not being able to use a buggy to get around the course unless he was able to produce a doctor’s letter saying it was medically necessary. It takes only a tiny bit of medical knowledge to know that walking the length of a golf course will cause considerable discomfort for an amputee’s stump.

But actually, common sense and compassion would mean that of course it would be OK for someone in his situation to use a buggy. After all, it’s not as if this would result in an influx of golfers suddenly deciding that a good walk spoiled would be improved by riding around on a buggy. We’re left wondering what kind of culture prevails at the golf course that means someone

Mr Houghton is suing Brentwood Council on the grounds that they discriminated against him.

In our view they don’t have a leg to stand on.

Banking on misery

Banking is quite a simple business. You take deposits from people, pay interest on them and lend money to other people and charge interest. In the absence of rows of clerks with quill pens and abacuses, you need IT systems that can keep track of these transactions as well as do some of the slightly more complicated things like manage a mortgage, make international payments or deal in exotic derivatives.

Of course, when you have a customer base of millions of people it makes things a bit more complicated, particularly when you want to move them from one IT system to another.

But it takes a particular skill to screw up the migration in such a spectacular fashion as TSB managed to achieve earlier this year. At the time we identified collective delusion as being somewhere at the root of the failure: a sense that things would go well even though there must have been dissenting voices saying that more testing was needed.

Five months on, TSB customers are still experiencing problems and, to add insult to injury, a further outage on 3 September locked thousands of customers out of its mobile and online banking services. This was too much for CEO Paul Pester, who announced his resignation the following day.

Taking the rap for causing misery for thousands of customers and landing the bank with a chunky compensation bill might create a feeling that justice has been done somewhere, although with a farewell payment totalling nearly £1.7M we shouldn’t worry that Pester’s being punished too harshly. What’s not clear is whether any lessons have been learnt from this debacle and whether enough has been done to prevent future failure.

Meanwhile, customers with simple banking requirements should look at the newer fintech challengers such as Monzo and Starling, both garnering praise from customers for a simple, no-nonsense approach to looking after a customer’s money.

Learning from the worst

It might seem simplistic, but the most important lesson we can take from these two examples of crimes against customers is “do the opposite of what they’ve done”. In the case of the Brentwood golf course that’s certainly true: welcoming all customers and accommodating their needs should be fundamental to all businesses. In the case of TSB, the toppling of Paul Pester tells us we should look beyond symbolic acts and dig a little deeper to find out what’s really changed.


Nick Bush

Nick is a business advisor and non-executive director who helps organisations improve their focus and performance by developing customer-centred strategies and business plans. He has helped companies transform the way they do business through better strategies, change management and technology, with a relentless focus on the customer. Nick has worked across all kinds of business sectors from telecoms to banking, chemicals to charities - as owner of Open Chord his current focus is on helping arts and non-profit organisations to be more successful by creating a solid planning foundation that will help them grow.