A single creative way to make banks fix their broken system
2 min read

A single creative way to make banks fix their broken system

What do you do when banks won't respond to your usual way of reporting errors? You suspect no one is checking the support lines and it all goes in the trash? Automate your complaints through a channel where they do pay attention.
A single creative way to make banks fix their broken system

Running a business has many moving parts. The more you can automate, the more it frees you up to address higher level and strategic problems of your business. This is a newsletter about automating aspects of your business.

Story and Problem

Here's a story that I found while trekking the wilderness for automation stories:

My best automating stuff story, though, is automating complaint letters to UK banks. We were pushing the limits of what the UK's Direct Debit system can handle, and as a result were seeing all the edge cases where banks got it wrong. One common one was banks accidentally charging back a payment twice, and each bank had their own, totally bespoke complaints procedure for getting in touch when that happened.

A couple of engineers and me spent a couple of days integrating with Lob and a fax provider whose name I forget to automatically write complaint letters every time the banks screwed up. Some of these were being sent to named individuals for all Direct Debit complaints related to RBS, for example.

Needless to say, the banks fixed the problems that were causing us to need to complain soon enough. :-)

That was Harry Marr, the founder of Dependabot, where payment errors made by their bank was automatically turned into complain letters sent out over fax and the postal service.

Every company has norms in how they communicate and process information. It's interesting how he converted his own company's effective mode of communications (emails, APIs) to the bank's effective mode of communications (direct mail) in order to get their attention to fix a problem.

Zappos is famously customer focused and customer orientated. You can call into tech support to get guidance and to troubleshoot.

Google is famously not customer focused and orientated. It's a strongly technical company, but doesn't have the DNA to field support calls.

So, when your business is dealing with a 3rd party, remember to keep the audience in mind. How do they communicate with the outside world? How do they typically process new information? If it turns out they best respond to formal letters in the mail, such as government agencies, then perhaps automating Lob is right for you.


Many of us instrument and monitor errors on our apps and businesses with New Relic, Sentry, or Rollbar. These services come with an API (rollbar, sentry) where you can listen or query for events.

While Integromat and Zapier only support New Relic, with some work, you can gather all the informaiton you need to create a document to send over Lob.

*Header Photo by Fu ZhiChao

Enjoying these posts? Subscribe for more

Subscribe now
Already have an account? Sign in
You've successfully subscribed to Automation Cookbook.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.
Success! Your billing info is updated.