Complex Collapse

Bank of America really doesn’t want to make money.

bofa-webmail-disasterWell, that’s not true, but their technology seems to be designed to chase customers away. I say this after having sent error pages and bug reports to several people in the BofA mortgage division. During a second attempt at refinancing an investment property (the first attempt bombed due to internal, human process malfunctions at BofA) I was stopped by their technology for sending me email.

Yes, email.

BofA has implemented a byzantine email apparatus, seemingly invented by Rube Goldberg, for sending messages to loan applicants. The system:

  1. Sends an attached HTML file to open a local web page on the desktop
  2. The local web page only works on Internet Explorer, which means for people using Chrome, Firefox, Opera or something else, they get nowhere
  3. The error messages are obscure (for example, the Java download fails in Chrome and the ActiveX load does nothing)
  4. The work-around for mobile users almost worked, but attachments in the web-based email cannot be downloaded

Now this isn’t just griping on my part (though it does feel good to get this off my chest). It is a demonstration of how a company with significant IT development funds can chase away customers. Being a former systems programmer, I recognize both how and why a system is malfunctioning and work around problems. The average person, not knowing how to diagnose BofA silly software, much less know that it is malfunctioning, will have their loan applications expire or may just dial-up Quicken Loans instead (those people are still pestering me).

In this saga we see the separation between CTO designs and customer expectations. As a customer, my expectation is that if there is an issue with my loan application, I would get a simple email instructing me what to do. BofA’s developers (either by autocratic direction or narcotics abuse) bought/erected a monument to digital perdition. I have heard BofA is a big Microsoft shop, but assuming that a customer has, uses or wants to use Microsoft’s browser borders on insane and violates the direction that web technologies are heading.

The end result is customers dropping out of the BofA pipeline as fast as BofA is dropping cash on fines by the federal government.

The steps to meeting customer expectations are many, but the core ones are few.

  1. Don’t make assumptions.
  2. If in doubt, make it simple, not complex.
  3. Test it with real people using their normal environment in the prototype stage.

Marketing needs customer experience oversight, and that includes things as allegedly simple as email.


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