14 January 2013

The hidden costs of dodgy documentation

I’ve just finished opening a bank account for my son. This would have been done a while ago, but the bank lost the copies they’d taken of my driving licence. This means that I had to make another trip to the branch for them to re-photocopy the document (I could name and shame the bank, but in general they’re a very good provider).

What I’ve discovered is that I struggle to turn off my inner documentation beast. They sent me a sheet of A4 paper with two lists on it: one of these lists was titled “identity documents” and the other was titled “proof of address”. The instructions (personalized to me at the top of the screen) said “provide one document from list B”... as neither list was labelled A or B, I had to phone the bank to find out which of the two lists was list “B”. (This was further confounded by the fact that a driving licence is acceptable as both proof of ID and address, and yet was only in one of the lists!)

The implications of that simple mismatch between instructions and the reference table can be far reaching for a business:

The number I called was an 0800 number, so the bank was paying for my call. I spoke to the member of staff for approximately 12 minutes (as they had to “take me through security”). I’d just cost the bank wages and overheads. The individual I spoke to in the bank’s call centre said that they got calls about this “all the time”, which I suppose from their perspective is a good thing as horrid and mismatched documentation is keeping call centre staff in work.
How many people would decide not to pursue things any further with the bank in question? There are plenty of competitors who I wouldn’t have to phone after they’d bodged the letter that they sent through after they’d lost things.
An easy way to tell the difference between a phishing email and genuine communication from a bank (or any business) is the way the conman modifies the language at will, not so much to suit their own purposes, but as a clear indicator that they learnt English gathered around the village TV watching 80’s B movie re-runs. I was given the option of sending my original driving licence to the bank in the post, but there was no way I was doing anything other than taking it into the branch after they’d appeared even slightly dubious.
Bad Press
I suppose this blog is an example. Every time documents are inaccurate and it creates hassle for a customer, they’re likely to repeat the tale later in the day when blowing off steam. This could have serious repercussions for a brand, particularly if your marketplace is somewhat niche.

So that’s the breakdown of the repercussions of bad documentation. There’s a builder in my local area who I haven’t asked to quote for me because his business card is mis-spelled, and there are call centre staff in India who I’m on first name terms with because their employer’s FAQ section consists of 2 FAQs and a smiley face (David Hamill's treatment of FAQ usability is well worth a read). The question to ask is how many of your customers are doing the same because of simple and easily fixable mistakes.


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