Working Nicely With Others

Working together for a common cause…meeting & exceeding your customers wildest expectations…involves a lot more people than your immediate sphere of responsibility.

You need to be able to work closely with ALL those units that provide critical support for your area…and you need to be able to influence them as well.

I can’t tell you how many times my fellow units & businesses provided me with some incredible support…often as a result of a long-time, working relationship that we had established & continued to reinforce over the years.

> > Tony Azzara was a senior programmer @ Court Square who worked on the Citismart application.

I believe it was the late ’80s/early ’90s when we worked so very closely together to automate the entire checkbook ordering function, first for New York Banking & eventually, for all businesses across the country!

It was a pretty smooth, problem-free transition as we brought the whole process out ot the Dark Ages when every order/reorder had to be handled manually. And we were receiving about 2,500 orders daily

Tony was absolutely incredible & so flexible in designing…and delivering…everything I requested.

But the real kicker was all the changes & enhancements that I felt were necessary in order to properly address, and fulfill, every single possible situation that our people faced…different printed & shipping addresses, fee waivers (including partial ones), supplies, rush orders & a myriad of special requests.

All it really took was a phone call.

Didn’t hafta go through the whole formal process of completing a TRF/Technology Request Form, then getting it approved, and finally prioritized.

Talked it over the specs with Tony, approved the changes, made sure the vendors were in lockstep with isz


> > There was another situation we faced regarding foreign address changes.

The Bank was losing well in excess of $4MM annually from fraudsters who began their scheme by calling CitiPhone, providing all the info necessary to pass the “caller verification” process, then getting the foreign address changed (to the crook’s address).

Once that was accomplished, it wasn’t too difficult for them to then order new checkbooks, Citibank debit/ATM cards, ATM PIN/Personal Identification Numbers, etc…everything they needed to clean out the account.

And while we enhanced our systems to warn, then prevent, our people from accepting “combinations” of certain customer requests (based on recent history), especially those associated with foreign addresses, there were always times when something fell between the cracks.

We (the business, specifically our Florida branches, and I) agreed to “force” anyone requesting a foreign address change to either visit the branch in person…many Central/South American customers also had a business &/or personal presence in Florida…or send a written, signed request, “notarized” by the U.S. embassy, directly to their home branch.

But it would take programming changes by the CWS/CitiPhone WorkStation staff (led by the wonderful Vicky Trub) to get it accomplished.

I sent them the specs on a Wednesday afternoon.

On Saturday morning, the enhanced functionality was fully in place & undergoing UAT/User Acceptance Testing…post-implementation!!!

We definitely broke a land speed record on that one!

Oh, BTW, losses associated with fraudulent foreign address changes dropped to -0-!

Lemme tell ya, I could go on forever with examples of how other Citi units & businesses pulled some strings for me…time & time again!

But it certainly wasn’t because I demanded it (“Ha! Ha! Demand this, Mike!”) or went to senior management to beg, since most of my bosses really didn’t have a damned clue with what or whom I dealt. (My annual performance appraisals were truly comical! The only time I ever got any useful feedback, or any feedback at all, was when I was running CitiPhone back in NY…and that was only for my first 2 years there.

I spent my entire career always trying to do the right thing for others…always handling these “special requests” when they had no one else to go to that would even listen to them, much less actually satisfy them or their customer…volunteering to handle stuff out of my realm of responsibility as I knew it would simply get done better & more quickly.

And while I certainly exhibited a whole bunch of masochistic tendencies, it would always come in handy whenever I had to “call in some markers”.

Never, ever felt guilty asking someone for a favor or special consideration as I had already “earned it” in what I had previously  done for them.

> > This last story…👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 “Thank God!” 🎉🎉🎉…takes me back to the mid-80s when I was running the Customer Service Unit for the Brooklyn/Long Island/Staten Island Region of Citibank.

No, it didn’t involve a return of a favor, but it does underscore the importance of working closely with others.

We were having a Region-wide review with our Systems partners.

Everyone’s going around the table & relaying how things are going in their particular business with regard to Systems. There were the usual complaints about hold times for the Systems Help Desk (especially when there are issues) & the like.

Joe Redington (JJR III)…one of the most-respected & well-liked senior leaders EVER (I LOVED the man!!!)…then turns to me & says, “So, Mike, how are things going in Telephone Customer Service? You’ve been pretty quiet so far.”

“To be honest, Joe, we’ve noticed a great deal of latency (delay) with regard to Citismart screen changes. We’re used to the screen changing whenever the rep’s fingers go near the keyboard.

“Now it seems, over the past week or so, that it’s taking between 3 & 4 seconds for a screen to change. We’ve opened several Trouble Tickets on the issue, but they keep telling us that the system is operating within standard guidelines.

“‘We’re meeting our SLA’ is what I’m being told when I personally escalated the situation! (SLA is “Service Level Agreement”, a formalized performance level that’s agreed upon by two businesses, companies, etc., often with prescribed penalties for failing to meet standard in a definitive timeframe.)

“SLA or not, it’s having a significant negative impact on my area’s ability to efficiently service our customers in a timely manner.”

Joe looks over at his peer in the System’s world.

“Is this true?”

“Well, Joe, you must realize that we’re well within the guidelines set out for my organization. ‘Mainframe Screen Response Time’ is 4 seconds or less, 99% of the time.

“We’re meeting our commitment, Joe!”

I respond. Respectfully.

“But something has recently changed! We’ve always had instantaneous screen response time for years. I’ve already baked that assumption into our AHT/Average Handle Time projections. That, along with our forecasted call arrival patterns, formulate our capacity plans & staffing projections.

“Look, we handle about 10,000-15,000 calls a day. On an average call, we’re probably executing 3-5 screen changes.

Adding an extra 3 1/2 seconds per screen change to every call increase our total AHT by…”

I take out my calculator.

“Let’s see. 12,500 calls x 4 screen changes @ 3.5 secs per equals…that’s 175,000 extra seconds a day, or 2900 extra minutes. With the average rep handling 100 calls a day @ 2.5 min AHT, I’ll need another 11-12 reps to be able to maintain the same timeliness performance as always!

“I’m sure that won’t be a problem, Joe! I can send over a bunch of job requisitions as soon as I get back to my office at Baylis!”

Joe glares at the Systems people.

“Fix it.”

There’s like a couple of nanoseconds pause before…

“Yes, Joe.”

Case closed.

Our normal, expected screen response time was back to normal the following day.


As always, thank you so very much for listening!

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