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Anne Stuart’s BPM in Action

Michael Dortch

When Business Processes Fail: Exxon, Citibank, and the 2,000 Credit Cards

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Frank Van Buren is a businessman who has loyally carried an Exxon Corp. credit card, issued by Citibank, for 17 years. His card was about to expire, and he contacted Exxon to request two new cards.

He got them. Shortly followed by a box of 1,000 additional new cards, festooned with Frank's name and account number, but without the activation stickers most new credit cards now carry to help prevent identity theft and unauthorized use.

Frank called Exxon customer service, and was told to destroy the cards. Which he and his shredder spent three hours doing. After which, he received another box of another 1,000 ready-to-use credit cards.

Frank tried to get reimbursed for the time and trouble of shredding the 2,000 cards he didn't request and didn't want. He was first offered $25, which he refused, then $100, which he accepted, albeit grudgingly. Exxon, meanwhile, said publicly that it has no idea what happened. Citibank said it apologized for "any inconvenience."

Yeah, right. Meanwhile, Frank came away feeling victimized by a company with which his business had done business for almost 20 years. As he told the New York Daily News, "Companies are not giving us what we pay for," he said. "The attitude was: 'This is your problem, not ours.'"

So, what have we learned today?

1. Business processes do not stop at the front door or loading dock of your business, but extend to every partner with which you do business. This means that your business is ultimately responsible for anything with it or your name on it, even if a partner is involved in actual delivery.

2. You cannot control the implementation or management of partners' business processes. But you can, should, and must audit those processes regularly, and build into your partnership agreements specific terms and conditions that motivate partners to communicate regularly and clearly with you and your business. Those agreements should also penalize partners that violate or fail to comply with said terms and conditions.

3. Ensure that your business processes, and those of your key partners, include rapid and meaningful apologies to customers who are badly or inexplicably treated – and more than token financial remuneration when those customers are significantly inconvenienced. The customer may not always be right, but is always important, and should always be treated that way.

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Business process management and optimization -- philosophies, policies, practices, and punditry.

Anne Stuart

I am the editor of ebizQ.

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