Thursday, September 22, 2016

Hopefully a sign of new things to come...

It's been a busy year this year.  In my day job working in food security, I've been to Taiwan, Arizona and South Korea.  I've met a lot of people who want to help solve some really really big problems that literally affects billions of people.  It's been rewarding to see this year unfold, if a little challenging.

In my spare time, I've also had some rewards.  As most people know, I've had nearly two decades of challenges with one of my banks.  Well, something interesting happened.

Traditionally, the customer/bank relationship looks like this:

It's not a productive loop, and it's prone to issues.  For instance, I've experienced "We're looking into your problem" when I've not actually stated what the problem is yet.  (In programming, we call this a "race condition").  Another problem is that if you are the one reporting, there's the sensation that things disappear into a black hole as you never get feedback.

But, that was all I had for 18 years.

About a month ago, something I saw emanating from the CIBC twitter team that was obviously "incorrect from a technical standpoint" annoyed me.  On that day, I was going to be downtown, so I thought I might as well just break the "Report" -> "Thanks" cycle and walk into the bank with the solution to the issue.  Long story short, my "let's just cut to the chase" style wasn't met with the same enthusiasm.

I have no idea what switch flipped that day within the bank, but after 18 years, we changed to this method of communication:

Now, instead of the uncertainty of whether technical messages are getting through, or are distorted in a game of "broken telephone", the bank was asking what I needed? 

That's a very simple question for me - If someone gives me a room full of technical and policy people that I can speak unimpeded and natively to in order to explain a) what I can see and b) where I can see it, then I can get effective feedback (anyone that's ever worked with me knows I don't like red-tape or unnecessary delays) as to whether what I'm saying is even being understood, as well as the added bonus that you can hold a Q&A session to clear up any loose ends. I think that in 30 minutes, I offloaded more information about customer optics and technical issues than I have since the "triple-Interac-debit whilst saying money was not debited" debacle of 2013.  

Another good thing that came out of this is the customer service person I normally deal with (and probably frustrate to no end) was also in on the conversation.  In an age where KYC ("Know Your Customer") is a buzzword in banks and large organisations and doesn't actually mean that they "know" who you are, I think it was good that the frontline customer service person who normally has to deal with me could see me in my native habitat.  Instead of being the keyboard warrior on Twitter that they know and recognise, they could the bigger picture when this wound-up-spring was finally let loose.

We didn't agree on everything (for instance, 9:59am to 1:49pm is still basically 4 hours in my book), but I think it was a productive use of my time and their time.  I was told new things that nobody had explained before, and they were told things that I see as problematic.  

Time will tell if things actually get cleaned up security wise, but my guess is it will because now people know the extent of what can be inferred outside the bank, and most crucially, know that people outside the bank know.