Are your business systems arrogant?


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This free article by Derek Stockley highlights an example of business arrogance in a system design. It raises questions about the design of systems to suit business rather than customer needs.

An arrogant computer system example

I was recently shown an interesting "adjustment note" from a large, well known company. The note concerned a payment to a supplier and was formal, legalistic and difficult to understand.

It took five minutes to work out that the payment to the supplier had not been processed. Part of the explanation read "please check your name, address and bank account details and advise of any changes".

The accounts payable staff had made a mistake when inputting the supplier’s bank account details into their computer system. The adjustment note had been sent when the system had failed to credit the supplier’s bank account. Rather than checking their input, the adjustment note was issued.

In other words, they wanted the supplier to locate THEIR processing mistake! The supplier had provided the correct information.

Arrogance is about "having or displaying a sense of overbearing self-worth or self-importance". I do not know if the company realised the impact of their computer system. It may have been unintentional.

I believe the company should have checked its own work before it contacted the supplier. The effect of the adjustment note was to say "please do our work for us" if you want to be paid.

The company concerned has had press coverage about reducing its supply costs. I understand savings have occurred.

If the above is an example of streamlining processes "at all costs", then I believe the company has gone too far.

Designing systems for the customer as well as the organisation

Organisations can make similar mistakes when designing systems for customers. In an effort to minimise costs and streamline processes, the actual needs of the customers can be overlooked.

Systems designers need to avoid the temptation to mould customer behaviour to meet the demands and limitations of the computer system. The system should be adapted to meet the needs of the customers.

Summary

Systems should be streamlined and effective, but they should never neglect the needs of the user.

Personal reflection

Was the above accounts payable system intentionally arrogant?

Have I had personal experience with an arrogant system? How did I react? Did I provide feedback?

Action items

Do we have arrogant systems?

Do we need to revise our systems to ensure that they are customer friendly?

How do we treat our suppliers? As business partners or as unimportant cogs in a big machine?

Should this issue be discussed at our next team meeting?

Related information

Designing systems and processes that work - many managers are unaware of the design faults in their systems and processes. If you want to avoid major problems, then this free article by Derek Stockley may well save your customers immense frustration and dramatically improve your bottom line.

How to handle customer complaints - highlights how good practices can minimise the unhappiness caused by bad customer service practices and processes.

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Derek Stockley conducts public training courses in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, including a Public Train the Trainer Program.



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