Are Your Systems Stupid?

Posted on by in Business, Change, Customer Service, Design, Growth, Leadership, Operations, Personal Development, Remarkability, Strategy

Every company has them–they’re the reason why we love Dilbert, laugh at The Office, yell at the auto attendant in “customer service,” who “can’t understand our response,”  and can’t wait to tell our friends and co-workers, “You won’t believe what happened to me today.” Or, in the case of people like me, blog about them.

Well, this morning I ran into a couple of different stupid systems. The first one was/is a simple, but silly one. Yesterday, we had a major rain and lighting storm here in the DC area and the only thing affected in our home was the router we use with Verizon FiOS. I used the router before the storm and all was fine. But after the lightning strike near our home, it didn’t work. After waiting a half hour and then doing everything I knew I’d be asked to do, the customer support person (after another half hour) agreed and said he’d send out a replacement router that should be to me today. Fine.

So, what do you think happened this morning? Exactly! I got an automated voice message telling me that I can track my package by going to HELLO! If I could go to I wouldn’t need a new router!!!  Stupid system (Note: I do have an iPhone so I could track it that way but the system–on their end–doesn’t know that. So the PROGRAMMED message on their end should have first of all told me when the package was sent and when it should be arriving and then should have said, “And if you have an alternative way of tracking packages online, you may do so by going to and entering the following tracking code).

In addition, the auto attendant quickly gave me a long string of 18 numbers and letters to use to track the package–with no option of repeating the numbers. HELLO! Do they really expect that everyone who answers their phone does so next to a pad of paper with a pen that actually works? Or do they really believe that everyone who writes down 18 numbers and letters, gets them correct the first time they hear them? Buzz! Stupid system.

But the funnier one to me was from Citigroup. Citi called because they thought we had a fraudulent charge made on our card with them last evening (good system). When I confirmed the charge, the fraud specialist asked if I had any other questions, which I did. So I said, “Yes, it’s not a big deal, but I’ve wondered for awhile why Citi raised my interest rate last year. If you look at my account you’ll see I pay off my bill every month so it’s not a big deal, but as a good customer, I thought it was pretty ridiculous to raise my interest rate to 23.9% when I always pay my bills on time.” He said, “Great question. Let me transfer you to customer service.”

When I got on with phone with customer service, it all went downhill. When I asked him my interest rate question he said, “Let me look into that.” When I said, “Well, since I get 7-10 credit card offers a week and everyone–including you at Citi–offers me between 9.99% and 13.24%, it seems that you ought to be able to reduce my rate.” “Yes, Mr. Johnson.” “Okay, so what does that mean?” “We’ll take care of you.” “What does that mean?” “Just trust that we’ll take care of you.” “Okay, but what does that mean….” He said, “Just call us back and we’ll make an adjustment in your rate.”  So, why do I have to call back? Can’t we do that now?” Yada yada yada. Stupid system.

I then went on and said, “Okay, I’m looking at an offer from Citi, your company, right now. You just sent me an offer that if I open up a Citi Diamond Preferred Rewards Card (the same one I currently have) you will give me a $50 gift card, 2 Thank You Points for every $1 I spend for the next twelve months, 0% interest on transfers in, 0% APR on new purchases until 2/11 and a 9.9% APR today. In other words, if I stay faithful I get nothing. But if I open up a new card with Citi (the exact same card that I already have with you) I get all this.” Yes.” “So, why should I remain loyal?” Stupid system.

Now, my point is not to beat up on Verizon and Citi, because, as I said at the beginning, we all have stupid systems. Instead, my point is to remind you (and me) that we all have them. And while neither of these is enough to cause me to leave either company (hey, they just happened in the last hour or so), there are plenty of stupid systems that do cause customers to leave–and that’s both a tragedy and a fiscal nightmare.

In light of that, as you look at your own company, where are your stupid systems? What systems do you have in place that customers don’t like? Or what systems do they complain about that you haven’t fixed? Remember, what you think is irrelevant. It’s all about what customers think.

So, what stupid systems do you need to change?

To your accelerated success!

P.S. This is a great exercise to do with your staff–and with your customers.

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