12 Oct Show customers leadership, not gamesmanship
I never cease to be amazed by the games that some companies play with their customers in their neverending quest to goose up revenues and shore up profits. Most of these gambits end up aggravating customers rather than pleasing them. Lately, things have gotten ridiculous enough to make one yearn for the “good old days” of those intrusive evening telemarketing calls.
And I’m not talking about the nuisance of spam — although I admit it is a huge pain-in-the-you-know-what. The spam I receive is sent out by fly-by-night outfits and brazen individual hustlers, never from large established companies. But lately, I’ve been getting POed big time by the tactics of some well known banks, credit card companies and phone carriers with whom I have the distinct displeasure of doing business. The increasingly mercenary way these companies treat their customers is quite disturbing.
One credit card company I used to do business with for example had the gall to charge me a $35 late fee on a $2.50 balance that allegedly got paid one day late. When I called to protest the outrageous fee — 1400 percent of the outstanding account balance — the customer service rep blamed it on how their billing software was programmed. Understandable enough you say? But I wasn’t buying it. Software doesn’t program itself; humans write the instructions and rules. No doubt some executive at this credit card company made the decision to charge that fee regardless of the outstanding balance in hopes that many customers would pay it unchallenged.
In this case, I not only questioned this predatory practice but also immediately cancelled my card. I simply refuse on principle to do business with any company that would behave in such a way towards its customers. Even though I cancelled my account, the company continued to charge me late fees. I refused to pay them. Finally, the company cleared me off their books after I sent a scathing e-mail to the CEO questioning his ethics and decrying their shoddy treatment of customers.
At best this kind of behavior can be described as going through the motions — managing customers as just so many numbers, not individual clients. But in many instances the reality is far darker. Some companies are playing a systematic game of “gotcha” — creating opportunities wherever they can to zing customers for fees and penalties. Far from operating on autopilot, these predatory companies are laying in the grass ready to pounce whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Have you been treated lately in this way by any of the companies with which you do business? If so — dump them now. In the event you are unfortunate enough to be working for one of these organizations look in the mirror. Is it really worth it? Is this the way you like to be treated as a customer? Obviously not — then why are you allowing yourself to be associated with an organization that engages in such shameless scamming? If you are in a position to change these practices, do it. If not, start looking for another job. These companies will be forced to stop the gamesmanship if they lose enough customers and employees.
Capital One stands out in the crowd from its competitors for its refusal to play ‘gotcha’ games with customers. It doesn’t employ the increasingly widespread practices of its industry like switching payment dates frequently or sending out bills a week before they’re due in hopes of generating late fees. Instead, Capital One constantly seeks ways to provide new products and services that its customers need and want. It’s no wonder that the company is one of the most innovative and profitable financial services firms in the world. By all accounts, it appears to be a great place to work as well, known for its progressive people development practices and encouragement of employee creativity and innovation.
These characteristics and behaviors are at the heart of how Next Generation Companies operate — ethical, human-centered, customer friendly, and performing at a kick-butt pace. Do you want to delight rather than disgust your customers? Then start leading the service game and stop playing games with your customers. Your customers will be happier and so will your talent.
Tony DiRomualdo is a business researcher, writer, and advisor with Next Generation Consulting. He works at the intersection of people, business strategy, and information technology to help companies create a committed and high performance workforce. Tony can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.