I’ve just had a request this morning from a bank in Cambodia for a copy of a Learning and Development Quality Management System. It reminded me of a recent encounter I had with a more local bank.
I recently discovered that a cheque I had paid into the Bank had not registered on the account. It had been a couple of weeks since I posted it through the bank’s letterbox and I was starting to wonder where it had got to. I had used the letterbox as the cash machine on the side of the building was not accepting deposits. I thought a visit to the Bank was in order.
I explained the circumstances to one of the staff and I answered all her questions. Yes, I was sure it was this Branch. Yes, I had used the correct account number. Yes, I had definitely delivered it. No, I didn’t have any other bank accounts with them that I could have put it into. Yes, it was definitely this Bank I had posted it at and not a different one.
A slightly awkward silence followed. “I’m sorry Mr Ackerley, I don’t know what has happened to your cheque, but we definitely haven’t got it”, was the comment that broke the silence. I felt my frustration levels rising. This was obviously the end of the road with this person. I asked to speak with a manager. “I don’t think a manager will be able to do any more than I have done”. I reiterated my desire to speak with a manager, and in due course one arrived. We revisited all the questions that I had answered with the first assistant – perhaps unsurprisingly, the answers were the same. And the conclusion was the same – “I’m sorry, I don’t know where your cheque can be”.
“Okay”, I said, “I say I posted it through your letterbox and you say you haven’t received it. Let’s go back to the last point I know where it was – your letterbox. Please can you check the letterbox to ensure it hasn’t got stuck anywhere”. I was assured that this couldn’t have happened as there was nowhere in the box for it to get stuck. I was insistent. The manager reluctantly agreed. About five minutes later the manager returned with a sheepish look on his face and a huge pile of mail. “I must apologise”, he sighed, “It looks like nobody has emptied it for about 3 weeks”. And, yes, my cheque was in there.
The interaction highlighted the value of focussing on the process rather than assumptions. If either of the staff members had focussed on the process – the route the cheque had taken – they would have approached the situation more objectively and looked in the letterbox, but they chose to focus on the assumption that the customer didn’t know what he was doing (sometimes the case, I will admit, but not on this occasion!).
Would you notice if you hadn’t received any post for three weeks? I would. It made me realise that in some sectors mail doesn’t have much of a role any longer. I remember as a child my dad stopping the car and pointing out a house with no chimney – a real rarity. Perhaps in 10 years time we will be pointing out buildings with no letterboxes.
Pleasingly, the manager was very apologetic – unlike the assistant who appeared to disappear into the woodwork as the manager returned with the mail. Perhaps because they were embarrassed, or it was their job to empty the letterbox, or they would have to go through all the mail – or perhaps some other reason. But when a mistake has been made, admit it. He did that, and we had a laugh about it and moved on. If he hadn’t, I would have formally complained or changed banks.
And from a training perspective, what a great scenario for a role play for customer service training! Better than anything I could have made up – but the real experiences always are.