I used to really like the image my bank used in their corporate branding. It is a stagecoach which conjures up a romantic image of a high speed and dangerous journey with large sums of money to the safety of the big city. I also saw outlaws on fast horses trying to steal money but being repelled by the committed and fearless drivers and watchmen of the stagecoach.
Little did I know that the outlaws I’d need to protect myself against would be my current banks executives.
I’m not a financial luddite, nor am I overly romantic and longing for the good old days. I do understand that the financial markets have played havoc with banks business models and that change is certain. What I don’t understand though is how a customer with three checking accounts (not with minimum balances mind you), four savings accounts (also not with minimum balances), two credit cards, two mortgages, and merchant credit card services can not be viewed as a valuable customer. I can be incredibly loyal – however, my banks executives are making it hard to be loyal when they find it palatable to charge me the following two fees:
1. A $10.00 fee to send me a paper statement for my merchant services account
$10.00? Really? You’re kidding me? Okay, I think I understand this. One way of having people gravitate to paperless statements is to make receiving paper statements so prohibitive that switching to electronic statements makes sense. That’s not the case with my bank. They told me that their cost structure was such that it cost them $10.00 to send a paper statement. I pushed back in disbelief and said “wait a minute -you’re telling me that it costs you $10.00 to send me a statement? Yes sir, that’s correct”.
In the deep south where I lived for seventeen years we used to say “bless your heart” before telling someone what we really thought. For example, we might say “bless your heart, but that is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” Mr. Banker, bless your heart, but that is the dumbest thing your customer service people could have ever said. Tell me you want me to go paperless and in turn are giving me an incentive to receive an electronic statement; tell me that you are committed to reducing your paper footprint, tell me you recognize the need some customers have to reduce their banking expenses. But never, and I mean never, allow customer service personnel to tell me that you are bloated, inefficient, greedy and bureaucratic. You never said these words but your actions clearly communicated it.
2. A $500.00 early cancellation fee for terminating a merchant credit card services agreement
I understand early termination fees for cellular phones, especially the Iphone. The acquisition costs for the hardware is such that cancellation fees are common. We all know about them, we recognize them, we shop for lower ones, and if we don’t like the cost we choose not to buy the product that has them.
What I don’t understand is how my bank finds it acceptable to bury an important provision of their service in the smallest of print in their legal document. When I asked my representative about the fee her response was the death knell for customer loyalty. “Did you read your agreement? It’s on page 5 in subsection 3 paragraph 2. Did you read that?”
I’m not going to slam my bank because I feel victimized – I’m not a victim and I recognize that I have a role in helping to create this situation. I am slamming my bank for the absolute ineptitude of their management to anticipate and train their customer service staff to meaningfully manage this conversation.
After reviewing all of our accounts the termination fee is being waived. But after all that has been said and done my bank blew an opportunity to meaningfully communicate how much they valued and appreciated my business. The choice was to leave me feeling positive about them and their service, instead they converted their biggest advocate into their biggest critic.
Every bank has to find a way to grow, innovate and jump to new levels of performance – they just can’t do that while sacrificing customer loyalty. If you want to starting jumping to new levels of performance with your customers, here are four questions I have based on my experience with my bank:
1. Are you seen as a valued provider of services to your customer or a vendor? How does their perception affect their loyalty to you?
2. Are there any areas in your organization that while well intentioned and justifiable are frustrating/alienating your customers?
3. Are there any areas in your business model that if you were the customer you would find it objectionable?
4. How confident are you that you’re accurately measuring customer engagement and loyalty?