Chicago, 13 March 2007—Today, the Global Human Capital Journal awarded StaySmall, the global payment intermediary, the odious Web 0.2 Citation for inducing a poignant bout of customer yechsperience™.
As readers know, the GHCJ exercises stringent criteria before conferring the Web 0.2 Citation: to earn it, companies must induce prolonged feelings of frustration, confusion and anguish in customers more effectively than their competitors.
Tonight, StaySmall delivered in spades, as reported by the judges. Here is a summarized account of the findings…
Account of Yechsperience™
- I had been a customer of StaySmall’s for years. As they are an intermediary and payment arm of GeeWay, a global auction site, they require customers to specify what payment sources they credit for transactions initiated by customers. I had a personal checking account and business credit card set up through the online account manager, with the credit card listed as the primary funding source (default).
- In summer 2006, I had tried to select StaySmall as the primary payment mechanism for Skype, as the two companies had been running a promotion. The transactions kept failing, so on Skype’s site, I removed StaySmall and used a business credit card instead.
- In fall 2006, I executed four business transactions using StaySmall within two weeks, and I was dismayed to find that my personal checking account had been credited instead of the business credit card (the primary funding source).
- I wanted to avoid commingling business and personal expenses, so I sent an email to customer support requesting the debit of the checking account and the credit of the credit card. I heard nothing from them and, since they were small charges and it was approaching the end of the tax year, I wrote it off as a minor irritation and did not consider nominating them for the Web 0.2 Citation.
Last week, however, their fortunes changed, and they broke through to 0.2 territory.
- In preparation for making another business transaction, I used StaySmall’s account manager to remove the checking account as a payment source. Then I executed the transaction with the seller on GeeWay. At this point, the credit card was the only payment source listed on the account manager.
- I fear that the coup de grâce is only too predictable: this evening, I was disheartened to see that the checking account had been credited in the transaction instead of the business credit card. Arghhh!
- Having previously yechsperienced poor (e.g. no) response from email support, I called to request that they rectify the situation by reversing the payment sources for the transaction. The representative said that their records showed that I had removed a payment address but not the bank account (I had done both). She was professional but said she couldn’t make any changes to the transactions, so she was not considered individually for a Web 0.2. I thanked her and asked for the supervisor.
- Here is a summary of the conversation that contributed to his battlefield nomination for “Runner-up Male Yechster in a Supporting Role”:
- Supervisor: “Once a transaction is in queue (much less after the fact), we are unable to adjust it in any way.”
- Customer: “I understand that you have millions of transactions per day and that it would be an unwise policy to meddle with transactions as a matter of habit; however, I’ve been done seriously wrong here, I’ve had an abysmal experience with your company, and I’m afraid that I’m going to make any future business with you contingent of this being made right.”
- Supervisor: “I’m sorry, it is impossible; if there were a button to push, I would gladly do it for you. You see, for security purposes, we do not enable our representatives any ability to adjust accounts; if they had such an ability, they could change who got paid for transactions. What you could do is contact the seller of the item you bought, request a refund, and then execute the transaction again.”
- Customer: “I would not want to inconvenience the seller and go through a whole separate process. I appreciate your thinking about security; however, banks and credit cards face the same issues, and their representatives (many offshore, as StaySmall’s was not) have the ability to correct mistakes. Could you refer me to a customer care executive?”
- Supervisor: “Actually, any email that you send us is referred to that department for their review, so if you send us feedback, it will be reviewed.”
- Customer: “I apologize, but since I tried to correspond with you earlier and received no response, I do not have much faith in the email route. I will find the appropriate executive. Thank you for your help; I realize that none of this is your fault.”
- After we hung up, I did receive an additional email from the supervisor; he had sleuthed out a separate email address that will be directed to upper management. His professional demeanor and follow-up were enough to disqualify him for the Yechster citation.
- StaySmall was founded in the Internet Age. They are not a bank with obstreperous legacy systems, so I have a hard time understanding their limitations. Neither representative nor supervisor offered any explanation beyond “there’s no button for that.”
- The supervisor meant well but did not inspire confidence when he invoked the security issue to explain his inability to reverse transactions. As I explained to him, I have done electronic banking since 1998, I’ve had dozens of cards and accounts, and all their supervisors have been able to reverse charges in the face of mistakes. The banks handle the same or higher volume than StaySmall. Apparently they have security more under control ,^)
- The circa 2000 account manager exhibits one of the worst designs I’ve seen. Although it’s not overly complex, it has serious usability issues in terms of workflow. This company has been in business for over a decade, and it’s an online company; you’d think usability would be a core competency, especially since they cannot accommodate customers when errors are made.
- StaySmall has been a part of GeeWay for many years and may be too dependent on it to win business. This instance of yechsperience certainly doesn’t bode well for its competitiveness. I infer that, were it not the preferred payment stream for GeeWay, it would be quite vulnerable to competitors. In any event, it is in considerable danger of being Googled in a bad way (“Amazoned”).
- StaySmall communicated unequivocally that their processes were too brittle to accommodate customer requests, even though I framed the discussion that way. The representative and supervisor were not empowered to make customers happy. In the Web 2.0 era, this is an Achilles Heel par excellence.
- The Skype incident may reflect poor architecture and lack of standard interfaces. They grew rapidly during the Internet boom and probably have schlocky, custom interfaces that make integration with partners problematic.
- As a payment intermediary, StaySmall can add value by enhancing the interactions with all parties. Having technology integration and business processes to facilitate transactions and customer delight would seem to be core competencies.
- Do not have a policy of wheeling out security as a blanket excuse to intimidate customers. Although StaySmall, as an intermediary, might have limitations that banks and credit cards do not, at least empower supervisors with solid explanations so that they may improve their cred with customers. Many of us work with business process reengineering and enterprise systems, and we understand many of the issues; don’t act treat us as if you are a seventies era phone company.
- Empower employees to satisfy customers. Both the line CSR and the supervisor were professional and empathetic, but the company’s technology, processes and procedures hobbled them. Based on my experience and the intractable problems I observed, I believe the company is damaging itself by failing to address its shortcomings. This is why GHCJ cited the company with the Web 0.2, not any employee.
- As an intermediary, StaySmall should provide more flexibility and options than their partners (banks, cards), not less. They should be leveraging the latest technologies to delight customers. At this point, they are lagging the market considerably.
- (This will sound obvious, but many companies either overlook it or do not translate vision to action). Think through your customer service strategy, and make it conguent at all touch points. For example, if you’re fantastic on the phones but stingy with the return policy, you won’t receive the return you would have, had the approach been congruent. Jeff Cerny has a fantastic follow-up on this: The Five Levels of Customer Service.
About the Web 0.2 Citations
The Global Human Capital Journal launched the Web 0.2 Citations in 2006 to recognize instances of yechsperience worldwide. The citations strive to communicate the importance of respectful, collaborative customer communication, and they aim to be educational. Although the primary account of the events leading to the nomination may be spiced with sarcasm, citations must include key observations and remedies that can could address expectation gaps. In the Knowledge Economy, the customer experience itself will be the battleground on which market share will be won or lost.
The name “Web 0.2″ references the emergence of “Web 2.0,” the second phase of the World Wide Web, which emphasizes peer to peer interaction and the voices of individual customers. The “0.2″ part of the name is a reference to an alpha (in development) version of software, which is not ready to be released to customers because its performance is uneven. Generally, a company’s version 1.0 is the first version to be sold to customers. “Yechsperience™” represents a large gap between customer expectations and providers’ unsatisfactory responses to dashed hopes.
The GHCJ is solely responsible for evaluating nominations, judging and conferring the citations, although it encourages any interested party to submit nominations. There are no restrictions as to the number of citations that may be awarded, and all businesses and industries are eligible.
View all the Web 0.2 Citations at any time by clicking the green logo.
Submitting Nominations for a Web 0.2 Citation
The GHCJ encourages anyone feeling a paroxysm of yechsperience to nominate a company. Strong contenders will follow the format exhibited by Web 0.2 winners:
- Give the context as well as a primary account of how the company induced yechsperience™. Remember, winners must produce prolonged angst in customers. Sarcasm and irony are not required, but they seem to increase chances of success. Share the facts that illustrate the candidate’s skill at causing yechsperience™.
- Do not use a company’s name, although you may use a fictitious name. Our aim is not to embarrass a company outright but to educate.
- Based on your vantage point, issue observations about the company’s business, competitive position and shortcomings. Explain the expectation gap in business terms, and use references to competitors and adjacent value chain players.
- Finally, recommend remedies that would help the company reduce yechsperience. Include how it could have reduced your angst. The most competitive nominations reflect on customers in general as well.
- Should you have any questions, please contact us.
- Thank you for your interest in GHCJ’s Web 0.2 Citations.
Special thanks to Moshe Yudkowsky of Disaggregate Consulting for a brilliant suggestion regarding the name of the citations. Heretofore, they will be known as the “Web 0.2 Citations.” This captures the flavor far better than “Web .20,” which did carry some dissidence with it. Thanks, Moshe, for fantastic insight!! Check out his book, The Pebble and Avalanche.