Customer Service


Sometimes, customer service is the most important part of a user’s experience. Some companies get this and some don’t.

What’s wrong with Citibank?

Last night, Citibank’s website asked me to reset my password. When I reset it, the bank’s site redirected me to the login form. When I entered my new credentials, the site asked me to reset my password. I was stuck in an infinite loop.

This problem was mirrored when I reported the issue to customer service. I talked to a rep. I answer a set of scripted questions designed to confirm that I wasn’t an idiot. The rep directed me to reset my password again, and I completed the same steps I already had. She asked me to try it again in an incognito window. I did so, with the same result. The rep shrugged her shoulders and informed me that it should work. Maybe try again in 15 minutes, and if that didn’t work, call back. Repeat.

If your curious, after talking to half a dozen reps, Citi’s eventual “solution” was to delete my account entirely and make me re-register.

When Customer Service Is UX

This kind of issue is all too common. No helpful error messages on a site’s forms. Console errors and javascript bugs that even a half-competent developer wouldn’t tolerate. Customer service reps who aren’t empowered to actually do anything that requires critical thinking.

All of these issues snowball into a terrible experience.

I’ve been a Citi customer for about 17 years. If I didn’t want to maintain my credit history, I definitely would have closed my account entirely after this incident.

So what can companies to do prevent this type of maelstrom?

Get serious about UX and customer service as an end-to-end system. When these types of issues crop up, make sure you have a team dedicated to walking through them and ensuring they don’t happen again.

Identify the root cause and fix that. Then go through and fix all the little errors that snowballed. The lack of form errors lead to the first call. The lack of an escalation process lead to multiple additional calls.

If you’re an organization that depends on good user experiences–read: every organization–then you need to be relentless in finding these problems and rooting them out.