Jackson Fish Market
Posted on October 8, 2012 by hillel on User Experience

An Open Letter to Vikram Pandit, CEO of Citibank

Dear Mr. Pandit:

I have been a Citibank credit card customer for 22 years. Honestly, I don’t know why I still am.

Today I received an e-mail and a phone call about potential fraud on my account.

Normally this would be a welcome call as I don’t want anyone stealing my identity and charging things on my account. Except that of the at least one hundred times you have bothered me with a communication like this, you have been right exactly ZERO times. ZERO! You are ALWAYS wrong. Major league baseball players only have to succeed a quarter of the time or more to be considered decent hitters. You’re never right.

As upsetting and annoying as this is, I understand that detecting fraudulent purchases using algorithms is a hard problem. But that’s not even the worst of it.

When the automated call asks me to identify a purchase it literally asked me this:

“Did you use your card at an unidentified merchant on Monday October 8th? If so press 1, if not press 2.”

Mr. Pandit, I design user experiences for a living. Mostly in software, but the principles of the interaction with a telephone are much the same. And may I say respectfully that yours is awful. Some notes:

  • You have a relationship with the merchant. The fact that your automated machine and the person who I later spoke to have ZERO idea what the name of the merchant is, is ridiculous. You KNOW the name.
  • And often when they do know the name, it’s some weird name of the holding business, and not a name I recognize.
  • If you want me to identify a purchase, please have the courtesy to actually use the name of the store that I would know. I don’t know if ABT incorporated (usually pronounced unintelligibly by your automated system) happens to own the store I just shopped at?
  • And while the human being did know the amount of the purchase, that was a piece of information that was sadly lacking in the automated call.
  • And to add insult to injury, there was NO option to switch to a human. So I just kept pressing buttons and having the machine yell at me that it didn’t understand what I wanted until it finally offered to send me to a human.

Your user experience is designed to save you money. It’s designed to save you from having to cover fraudulent charges. And it’s designed to save you from having to pay a human being to speak to me. As a byproduct, your user experience is designed to make me miserable. I can now say with certainty and no hyperbole, I hate Citibank. I’m a slow learner, so it did take 22 years, but now I officially hate your bank.

Every user experience can use polish and needs to evolve over time, but I’ve experienced this awfulness from your company for years. And that tells me two things: 1) you have no respect for my time, and 2) you don’t use your own product. I suggest you get a Citibank credit card, and make some online purchases periodically. And make sure that when they detect fraud, they call your personal cell phone. I have a feeling, when you experience this mess a few dozen times, all of a sudden it will become a priority in Citibank’s customer service department to fix this insulting and disrespectful customer experience.


Hillel Cooperman

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