As a fraud professional, I am passionate about fighting financial crime — yet, at the same time, I tout the importance of balancing security with the customer experience. It came as a big shock, then, when I found myself in the middle of a fraud investigation — by my own wireless provider! (My former wireless provider, I will add.)
The good news? The frustrating treatment I received illustrates some lessons for a more positive customer experience. While fraud is a challenging and widespread problem in retail, wireless providers can readily adopt fraud management and communications solutions already in wide use by financial institutions.
Lesson 1: Believe Your Customer
It seemed like a simple problem: My partner, our family photographer, had ordered a new, top-of-the-line iPhone 11 Pro from our wireless carrier. A few days later a box arrived in the mail — free of any visible tampering. We opened it with great anticipation, only to find that the box contained a much lower entry model, worth several hundred dollars less than the model we ordered.
“There’s been a mistake,” I said, calling the carrier’s customer service desk. I explained that the wrong model had been sent, and thought I would receive instructions on how to return the wrong phone and get the right one. Wrong! That’s where my story descended into a four-month-long customer experience inferno.
Lesson 2: Consolidate Service Tickets
I found my first call became just one of nearly a dozen calls to the customer service desk. Every time I called, we started from scratch. I told my story over and over again, always to be reassured this was the last call I would need to make.
In the first few days following the incident, we returned the “wrong” phone per the carrier’s instructions – only to find out later they had lost the returned device. In the first month following the incident, we received our first bill for the phone that was never received.
A mantra in my household is to be empathetic, to try not to say or write words you would not stand by later. But as the invoices for the never-received-phone continued to hit my inbox, frustrations grew high.
Lesson 3: Proactively Communicate with the Customer
On several occasions, I found the customer care representative would promise follow-up, but never followed through. “Why can’t they text or email me like my credit card company does when I’ve filed a fraud claim, to keep me apprised of its status?” I wondered.
I found myself trying to diagnose the problem. Part one—my receipt of the wrong iPhone 11 model—seemed like a simple "picking" error in the carrier’s warehouse. Part two, the disappearance of the phone I sent back, seemed like a returns issue. But, really, were each (or both) a fraud issue? I thought through what steps the fraud operations team might be taking to resolve these mysteries. Did they suspect theft by the outbound order fulfillment team, various package handlers, the delivery drivers, and/or someone receiving returns back at the warehouse?
Upon querying for updates of the investigation, I realized that the lack of forthcoming information (and the lack of refund) suggested who the carrier’s number one suspect was: me!
Lesson 4: Make Things Right with the Customer
Finally, as a last resort, I pulled a page out of the disgruntled airline customer’s handbook and took to Twitter. In less than an hour I had a Twitter Direct Message from the carrier. At last my complaint was heard! While at first things seemed on the right track, I was then told it would take another month to be reimbursed for funds I had already paid for goods never received.
This was the last straw. Once the payment came through, I beat a fast path to a new carrier.
The Moral of the Story
When customers complain, companies should listen and consider the source. Had customer service looked up my relationship with the company, they would have discovered a customer of more than 10 years who never missed a payment, regularly purchased upgrades, and had a top-tier credit rating. I hope I’m not tooting my own horn too much to claim that lost revenue due to my attrition as a customer will quickly outpace the fraud loss on the device.
My advice? Wireless carriers should consider implementing improved fraud management tools and processes, and learn from the best practices that customer-focused banks use. With fraud costing the global telecommunications industry an estimated $32.7 billion per year, more effective fraud management should be a top imperative, surpassed only by initiatives to improve customer experience.
At the end of the day, fighting fraud requires contextual decision-making that strikes the right equilibrium between risk and customer experience.
Follow my views on fraud, customer experience and more on Twitter @LizFightsFraud.