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How not to communicate with customers #3

“I came in last week and and you wouldn’t let me collect my debit card,” says the man in front of me in the queue. “You said I had to put money in the account and then I could have the card.”

“We sent it to your home in the UK on Friday,” says the cashier.

“But the whole point of this letter you sent me,” replies the novice customer, waving a piece of paper, “is that I can only collect my card in person. And I only came in last week.”

Gallic shrug. “Well, in the meantime we must have received an instruction to send it to your UK address.”

The man raises his voice. “What am I supposed to do now?” The cashier calls over her colleague, who repeats exactly what she has already said. The second cashier helpfully finds the instruction to send the card to the UK address. It is paper-clipped deep in the middle of a wad of papers. “But you’ve had that since the beginning.”

Another Gallic shrug. The customer leaves abruptly and it’s my turn at the counter.

“I’m sorry Madame, you don’t appear to have an account with us.” Unlike the novice customer, I am used to the incompetencies of French banking. I have brought with me statements proving I have an account and push them across the counter.

Oui, I have found your account. In order to complete this transaction…” I have foreseen this question as well. Photo ID crosses the counter.

I fill in a carbon-copy form, under a big poster advertising internet banking. The internet banking service provides no other functionality than allowing you to check your statement. Once my paperwork is processed I may be lucky enough to receive my transfer in 5 working days.

Lesson learnt: Apply processes intelligently. In projects, we often only deliver what’s in the requirements. But the basic, basic requirements might not be enough for what the project customers actually want. Don’t worry, they’ll adapt. Next time, that guy will put everything in writing, bring proof of ID, and call every day before he collects his card to make sure it hasn’t been posted. But it shouldn’t work like that.

If you have the opportunity, question the requirements and don’t be afraid to suggest your own ideas. You might ‘only’ be the project manager but that doesn’t stop you providing an input.

Oh, and service with a smile never went amiss.

About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin is a Fellow of the Association for Project Management in the UK and the award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.

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