the missing red bag
A missing red bag provides an example of how ignoring back end processes can ruin a brand's reputation PHOTO: John Mancini

The tech press often get caught up in the latest, bright shiny object du jour: big data, analytics, machine learning, deep learning — take your pick.

And while I get as excited as the next about where technology is headed, if you can't get the basics right, maybe you should hold off from investing in those virtual reality headsets for your team. 

Organizations need to pay attention to all of the core back-end case management processes that make the business run, and that are increasingly directly exposed to the customer and their potential wrath. 

The Curious Incident of the Red Bag at (Redacted) Rent-a-Car

For example, take what should have been a pretty straightforward case management process to a car rental company: retrieving a forgotten bag.

For those who know me, you will realize I did not select this process at random. My story involves my daughter, a car that was picked up in Manhattan and dropped off at the airport in Norfolk, Virginia (these details will feature prominently later) and a red bag that was left in the trunk when the car was returned.

So let me present (with apologies to the original awesome book):

a case management saga

One would think in the era of Digital Transformation, recovering a lost bag would be a pretty straightforward case management process. I’m not talking about actually GETTING the bag back, which I realized was a long-shot. But at least the process of logging a lost bag report.

A Series of Unfortunate Customer Service Events

Here are the initial steps I took that DID NOT work:

  1. I called “customer service” — I was told to call the branch or fill out a web form.
  2. I called the branch — no answer. Not just a traditional “no answer,” like a deserted voice mail box or a phone that rang and rang. But a “no answer” as in the phone didn’t even ring.
  3. I filled out the company’s lost bag web form, and was told “server not working.”

After several more rounds through this do-loop, I was left with the same results. When I went back to the web form the next day — voila! — the server WAS working. Here is what I saw:

form to fill out a missing item with faulty options

Astute readers will note, though, that the only drop down menu options available to us in no way reflect our actual car rental situation, which was picked up in Manhattan and dropped off in Norfolk, Virginia.

So my next step? Twitter, of course.

customer complaint to a brand on Twitter

The response? Nothing. Nada. Crickets.

Now I’m getting a bit riled. But I figured I would back off a bit and send a direct InMail to the CIO of the company and try to get some attention, rather than continue my public proclamations:

direct InMail to CIO of rental car company explaining lost baggage situation

Again, nothing. On day three of this saga, I've basically given up on the bag actually materializing and just want the satisfaction of actually logging a report.  …(and keep in mind, at this point I don’t really think the bag will actually materialize, all I really want to do is have the satisfaction of actually logging a report):

LinkedIn message directed at personnel of the rental car company

After my public LinkedIn post was greeted by radio silence from the car rental company, I decided to cc a few select people on the message, readily found on the company’s LinkedIn profile, on day four:

  • Director Shared Services Operations at XXX Rent-a-Car
  • Sr. [insert ECM name] Consultant at XXX Rent-a-Car
  • VP of Global Enterprise Architecture at XXX Rent-a-Car
  • Senior Social Media Marketing Specialist at XXX Rent-a-Car

So Tired, Tired of Waiting, Tired of Waiting for You

Following my LinkedIn post, as if by magic, my daughter’s phone rang. A VERY helpful gentleman said not only had he heard about “the LinkedIn messages that your father or boyfriend had been posting,” but the bag had been found. This man succeeded in spite of the company’s information management systems (more on that in a moment), and I am grateful for his efforts.

A few hours after the good news arrived, my daughter got the first of many subsequent emails. We have continued to get this email at periodic intervals ever since, but can’t really do anything about it because it is a “no reply” email:

poor customer service: email notification after the fact

The coup de grâce? One week after my original Twitter rant, I received this:

tweet from rental car company asking for description of missing bag

(One friend said “April” might actually refer to the estimated response time.)

Your Information Management Systems Matter

Now the point of my rather lengthy story:

  1. The local employees at this company — once we actually connected with each other — were extremely helpful. This is in spite of, not as a result of, the company’s information management systems. Far too many information systems still rely on employees to connect the missing dots. Your employees (and your customers) deserve better.
  2. The connectedness of information systems — front line customer service, social media, email support, web site — matters. In the content management space, we tend to call this “multi-channel inputs.” Whatever name you call it, it matters.
  3. Case management matters.
  4. I am convinced that a person without my social oomph would never have seen their bag again. That’s not right.
  5. Over 20,000 people saw my LinkedIn post. Eighty-six people liked it. Twenty-five people commented. The inability of this company to do fundamental case management has a reputational price.

Effective content management, information management and case management are not always the brightest and shiniest objects on C-level radar screen. But they matter.