Secure for “Your Own Good!”

Cumbersome Security Measures Create Difficult Customer Experiences

October 1, 2014

Bank of America doesn’t streamline customers’ address changes across its business units. The bank uses security as a thinly veiled excuse for making each customer notify each separate product line about a change of address. Comcast sets long, arbitrary router passwords that are virtually impossible to memorize and discourages customers from changing them—using “security” as a flimsy excuse. This is bad practice. Never use security concerns to rationalize bad business processes.


All I wanted to do was change my address with my bank. It turned into an hours-long nightmare of repeating information, waiting on hold, and wondering why I deserved all this hassle. According to the bank, it was for my own protection. But, examining the practice required to change my address for multiple types of accounts revealed senseless repetition and a burden on the customer.

Similarly, I just wanted to name my own wireless network and set up a password that means something to me, but not to anyone else. Again, I was strongly discouraged from doing so “for my own protection.”

Security is important, but your practices should make sense and be easy for customers to follow. Look at the hoops you are asking customers to jump through. Are they remnants of antiquated security practices, are they simply cost savings efforts for your company, or are you being overzealous without taking into account what customers need to do and how they want to do it?Password Security


Regular readers should be aware that I have just moved for the first time in 25 years. And the experience has been enlightening when it comes to customer experience. I have documented some great (and some less than great) experiences with contractors[1] whom I hired to make my former home ready to sell and to make my new home truly my castle. After the move, I encountered a new set of customer experience challenges, the most annoying of which are supposedly “for my own protection.”

BAD SECURITY EXPERIENCE #1: Change of Address Nightmare with Bank of America

Long-Time Customer with Multiple Products/Accounts

I have been a Bank of America (BoA) customer since it bought out Baybank (which had bought Bank of Boston, which had bought Mutual Bank, which had bought Suffolk Franklin, which is the bank in which I originally opened an account when I was in grad school). That’s a long time. And there are things I really like about BoA:

  • The website is easy to use and navigate
  • Online bill pay with direct billing is free and easy to use
  • There are no fees if you are an Advantage customer with a high enough daily balance
  • The customer service reps in the call center are caring and generally knowledgeable
  • Abundance of ATMs and branches throughout the country

And there are things I don’t like:

  • Low interest rates on deposits
  • The contact center IVR system (painful!)
  • Batch (versus real-time) posting of activity in mortgage and line-of-credit accounts (causing up to 72-hour delays in accurate information)

CHECKING ON ACCOUNT BALANCES. It is this last bullet that led to my most recent customer experience nightmare with the bank...(more)


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1) See A Couple of Short Takes on Customer Experience, posted September 18, 2014, by Ronni Marshak; Why Does Good Service from Contractors Surprise Us?, posted September 5, 2014, by Ronni Marshak; and Contractor Do’s and Don’ts: Why Customer Experience Is So Important When Choosing a Contractor, by Ronni T. Marshak, September 4, 2014,


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