There’s an adage that a happy customer will tell one person and an unhappy customer will tell… anywhere from four to 10, depending on who uses the adage. In the 21st century, this truism becomes even more powerful because an unhappy customer can tell literally thousands of people via a simple post – to a blog, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp or any of the descendants of these yet to come.
Given that context, consider our “local” banks. One of mine has been considered with great angst of late. After 20 years of “totally-free checking,” the cost of maintain my account surged from zero to double-digits per month. While branch tellers assure me announcements were included in recent statements, upon opening the ones from the past few months,none appeared to have been included. (This account has very few transactions anymore, so I don’t reconcile every month.)
As this change has surely raised ire beyond mine, the underlying message emerging from conversations with people on the front lines seems to be that the charges are my own fault.
Whatever logic fosters this tone is immaterial. Rule 6.5 of the Marketing Communication Code, Sub-section B, regarding customer service clearly states: “Never imply that the customer has brought increases in pricing or reduction in product quality or service on themselves… even if they did.” (Okay, there is no such code; I made it up. But there should be… I’ll get started on one.)
Clearly this bank wants to modify my behavior and offset costs it perceives are related to customers who use services in ways that appear less profitable, even after decades of loyalty. Still, if the management wants certain customers to go away, why send anyone packing with chips on their shoulders? Whatever attitude about these changes trickles down to the tellers will come out.
As a marketing communicator, I would advocate for presenting alternatives: Create new offerings to accommodate “expensive” customers rather than “punish” them with new fees for old services. New offerings come with new customer expectations; the old offering will always be tainted by the change. If you really want customers to go away, steer them to a competitor who will provide for the special needs required. At least this way they leave with some impression that the bank cares… rather than going home and blogging about the negative experience.