The New York Times reports the following story in it's Business Section today, 10 February 2012. Please note the following timing sequence:
1. July 2011 - Citibank releases an iPad app that allows customers to pay bills via their iPads for a transaction fee. There is a technical flaw in the app such that approximately 2% of transactions cause the customer to be charged the transaction fee two times.
2. December 2011 - Citibank detects this error.
3. Late-December 2011 - Citibank tracks down the cause of the error
4. Mid-January 2012 - Citibank informs its customers.
I am especially interested in the length of time that ensued between 1 and 2. You know that when customers are overcharged, they are not shy about exercising voice. Overcharging is the one service failure that will earn you lots of complaints. Yet five months went by before the problem was "detected" by the bank.
Does anybody believe that Citi did not receive thousands of calls about being overcharged? According to the article customers were complaining in social media within days of the release of the app. Five months later some grownup at Citi "detects" the problem.
It is time to admit that service quality is so unimportant in service firms that we might describe our era as the era of the self-driving company. Citi worked its way through traffic for five months not unlike one of those Google Self-Driving Cars.
Finally, in December, a human managed to hop on the running board, crawl in the window, and pull the key out of the ignition.