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Increased Security May Make Customers Flee

Mar 17, 2008
The motto of many organizations is "Customers come first." Read or hear that motto, and you might assume that an organization is bending over backwards to make life simple and easy for customers. But that's rarely the case. Such mottos are usually lip service rather than commitments that are enacted in reality.

Consider how so-called customer service usually works online. A Web site decides to become more secure by requiring you to select a more complex log-in name and password.

If you try to make this new selection on a Web site and make a mistake, you are usually advised to try again. Make too many unsuccessful attempts, and the site shuts you out.

You gnash your teeth in annoyance, but to no avail. You are being treated like a potential criminal trying to hack into the site rather than a confused person seeking a service.

Many such sites, especially for security brokerage firms, then make it very difficult to find someone who can help you. You can reach a human being by telephone, but that human being usually has no clue what the problem is. But before they can confess their ignorance, you have to answer several kinds of identification questions such as when was your last deposit, what was your last trade, and so forth.

Naturally, you cannot answer those questions in your paperless account without being able to open your account. Eventually, you establish that you are a real customer.

The clueless service representative then passes you along to someone who may have a clue. You start the whole identification process all over again with different questions that are all but impossible to answer.

It would be pretty funny if you weren't the one being treated like a new army recruit. Every time this happens to me, I find myself looking for a new online broker.

How is the problem ultimately solved? A programmer comes onto the line and makes the change for me. If the programmer is considerate, the person actually stays on the line until I succeed in making the change and can easily open and close my account. My anger slowly dissipates as we work through the problem together.

Now, I realize that such sites cannot have programmers talking every single customer through the change. But wouldn't it be possible to provide computer-based prompts that break the process down into little tiny steps?

An even better solution from my point of view is to issue a temporary password so I can take a second attempt at the problem online. With enough verification questions, surely that's as least as secure as making me mess around with the clueless representatives.

Increased security is fine as long as you don't lock customers out and frustrate them in the process.
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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