Now these are all experiences that I have suffered or observed over the last few years, and it’s worth saying a few words about them so that we understand where the world is today with something we proudly call ‘Business Intelligence’.
The first example was simply caused because this multinational company had a separate Human Resources system in each of the many countries it operated in. Whilst it was theoretically possible to get the total number of employees in the company at any one time, such a task would have been prohibitively expensive. The solution was a migration of all the systems to one single HR system – to use advances in technology to consolidate data and change an impossible problem into a trivial task.
The second example makes me laugh even today.
For years and years I have banked with a company whom we shall now know as ‘Bank X’. Over the last twenty or so years, because I travel extensively, I always have a larger than average amount in my current account, never ever go overdrawn, and for the last few years have had a large amount of money in my business bank account and a Visa card, all with Bank X.
Now, over the last fifteen years or so, Bank X has invested many millions of pounds in technology to enable it to better ‘know’ its customers, especially with regard to profitability, so you’d think that the following example simply wouldn’t happen.
Over New Year my bank balance was overdrawn by about £5 for one day because a large deposit cheque was still awaiting the notorious ‘clearing interval’ which, due to a bank holiday, was one day longer than usual. During this time, although Bank X could easily tell that there were no funds available, they honoured three direct debits to the tune of a little over £100. Whether they are legally obliged to do this I just don’t know, but if they’d waited one day, the funds would have been available, and they certainly knew that as it was written on my statement.
When I discovered the charge I obviously went straight to my local branch to have them explain to me what had happened, and to give them the chance to put it right, bearing in mind this was ‘my’ branch and I wrongly believed that they might actually show a loyal customer that loyalty works two ways. Well, what happened shocked me. I met a representative who basically dismissed all reason and told me that the whole thing was my fault and they could do nothing for me. When I insisted a little harder, I was told that they would refund half of the charges, an offer I totally rejected.
By now I was getting pretty frustrated. Just how much have Bank X made out of me? The answer would be measured in thousands, and here they were, behaving with no respect. So I tried writing a letter – just a nice letter suggesting that they refund the fees/charges – and in response to my single letter I had no fewer than four replies asking for patience whilst they investigated the situation. Bear in mind that two letters were exactly identical, telling me that they were both computer-generated, and that in the meantime I got another letter form a different department of Bank X asking me if I would like some financial advice from them as my current account now had an unusually large amount of money in it! Well actually I did write to these guys as well, pointing out that their mates were charging me £110 for a one-day overdraft and asking if they could see the funny side of this!
In the end, the money was put back into my account and I had a letter from Bank X. It basically said: It was my responsibility to ensure funds are available at all times; that the charges are generated automatically no matter who incurs them; that they had refunded my cash as a matter of ‘good will’ but they would not do this again. Now, with this type of response in mind I was forced into asking myself some questions:
- Ø If the charges are generated automatically, why is there a £30 administrative charge associated with each?
- Ø Why did Bank X charge me anything at all when they knew for sure that my debt would be covered by a £4000 cheque due to clear the next day?
- Ø Why did Bank X charge me anything when I make them so much profit?
- Ø Why didn’t Bank X resolve the issue when I went into the bank personally, thus negating the need to write at least five letters?
- Ø Why did Bank X refund the charges in such an ungracious manner?
- Ø Why doesn’t Bank X automate systems to prevent this happening?
- Ø Why does Bank X employ so much technology when it can’t seem to solve basic issues?
What does this indicate to me? It indicates to me that my bank, which is very important to me, does not have any holistic way of understanding who I am, how I bank, my needs etc., and I consider this to be pretty worrying. Different departments treat me as different customers – in fact their organisation and processes effectively inhibit intelligence; they simply don’t value information, possibly because they can’t imagine how to use it.