Are Anne’s elders genuinely frustrated?

Published on 18 January 2010 by in Customer Service, Latest News

Silver surfers like Anne, have adapted well to the new demands of the information age. Embracing the Internet, email and even Skype. However, for many of the older generation, communication technology is a backward step far removed from the human touch that dominated their working lives.

Like many, we receive numerous circular emails from friends and colleagues during the course of a week. From the humourous to the bizarre, they often provide useful insight to human nature or opinion – even those urban myths whose content owes more to folklore than fact.

 Are Annes elders genuinely frustrated?

An infamous letter of complaint

This recent story (see full text at the end of this post) is purported to be a genuine complaint from a 98 year-old lady to her bank. It is rumoured to have struck such accord with a manager that it was sent to the Times and published. Regardless of its origins, most will relate to its content and many in the field of customer service will understand the challenge.

Whilst entertaining in its own right, there is a serious message for all within the letter. As soon as technology interferes with rather than aiding customer service, it becomes the enemy of all. Regardless of age, lifestyle or technical ability, consumers want technology to be transparent (even Gary) and the experience to be seamless.

numero has found this to be the case across endless client projects supporting the broadest possible base of clients. Take our work with GAME as an example. For many, this leading retailer’s customers are considered to be some of the most technology-savvy around and yet the company has worked incredibly hard to ensure that customer journeys are enhanced rather than interupted by technology as this video case study helps explain.

GAME is a consumer champion, but so should all organisations with a large base of customers. Failure to streamline their journeys will soon translate to dissatisfaction that can be shared as widely as this entertaining letter:


Dear Sir,

I am writing to thank you for bouncing my cheque with which I endeavoured to pay my plumber last month. By my calculations, three nanoseconds must have elapsed between his presenting the cheque and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honour it. I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my Pension, an arrangement, which, I admit, has been in place for only thirty eight years. You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account £30 by way of penalty for the inconvenience caused to your bank. My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to rethink my errant financial ways. I noticed that whereas I personally attend to your telephone calls and letters, when I try to contact you, I am confronted by the impersonal, overcharging, pre-recorded, faceless entity which your bank has become.

From now on, I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person. My mortgage and loan payments will therefore and hereafter no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank by cheque, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee at your bank whom you must nominate. Be aware that it is an offence under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope. Please find attached an Application Contact Status which I require your chosen employee to complete. I sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much abouthim or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative. Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Solicitor, and the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof.

In due course, I will issue your employee with PIN number which he/shemust quote in dealings with me. I regret that it cannot be shorter than28 digits but, again, I have modelled it on the number of button presses required of me to access my account balance on your phone bank service. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Let me level the playing field even further. When you call me, press buttons as follows:

1. To make an appointment to see me.

2. To query a missing payment.

3. To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there.

4. To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping.

5. To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature.

6. To transfer the call to my mobile phone if I am not at home.

7. To leave a message on my computer (a password to access my computer is required. (A password will be communicated to you at a later date to the Authorized Contact.)

8. To return to the main menu and to listen to options 1 through to 8.

9. To make a general complaint or inquiry,

the contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service. While this may, on occasion, involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration of the call. Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrangement. May I wish you a happy, if ever so slightly less prosperous, New Year.

Your Humble Client

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