Another shining example…

…of how not to treat your customers.

Prior to the subprime debacle, Bank of America embarked on a customer relationship strategy that I found very refreshing.  When you entered their lobby, someone greeted you warmly and offered you assistance.  The tellers and personal bankers were also very friendly and helpful.  My only complaint, at the time, was that every time a CD came up for renewal there was a “special deal” that required me to come in and complete additional paperwork.

Let’s contrast that with the following message to its customers:

eBanking is for customers who like to use self-service options. With eBanking, we can help you avoid the monthly maintenance fee (called monthly service charge in CA, WA, and ID) by using self-service options (such as ATMs and Online Banking) for all of your deposits and withdrawals, and by choosing to receive account statements electronically through Online Banking instead of getting a paper statement. An $ 8.95 monthly fee applies to each statement cycle during which a teller helps you (or someone who makes a deposit or withdrawal for you) with a deposit or withdrawal, or for which we send you a paper statement. Please see our Personal Schedule of Fees or contact a bank associate for more information.

Is it any wonder that I feel whiplashed by their new policy?

Let’s explore what’s wrong with this policy.  It:

Places greater value on their time than my time (the same complaint I have about doctors).
Penalizes customers who prefer the human touch.
Doesn’t consider the possibility that technology failures will require human interaction.
Doesn’t allow me to develop a relationship with their representatives.
Dictates change to me.
Tells me that they’re struggling to generate revenues and profits.
Causes me to further question their financial viability.
Encourages me to look elsewhere for my banking needs.

Let’s examine each of these shortcomings briefly:

Time

Whenever someone’s actions tell me that their time is more valuable than mine, they’ve just insulted me. They’ve denigrated my very existence. Why what I want to do business with anyone so arrogant?

Penalizes customers

Interestingly BOA is penalizing its customers for availing themselves of services they offered. On top of that they’re ignoring the fact that we’re living in a world where social media is exploding because people crave connections with other human beings. Instead of embracing that trend BOA seems to be employing that old W.C. Fields line “Get out of here kid, you bother me.”

Technology failures

Over the past year I have, on no less than three occasions, had to go into the bank because the ATM wasn’t accepting my check deposits. Yet BOA expects me to drive to the front of the building, get out of my car, go inside, wait in another line to make my deposit and pay a fee to do so! I don’t think so.

Relationships

Bankers claim that banking is a relationship business. It’s through the process of getting to know one another as individuals that relationships are built. How is that going to happen under BOA’s new policy? Certainly not by penalizing me for wanting the relationship.

Dictates change

Somewhere around age two we begin to assert our independence. It’s a toss up to see who says “No!” more often, the parents or the child. With age and experience we’re even less inclined to have others dictate what we’re going to do much less when and how we’re going to do it. A reality that BOA has overlooked.

Hungry

How many of you enjoy doing business with companies that are hungry? Isn’t it true that when you’re talking to a salesperson and that person seems desperate for a sale your inclination is to take your business elsewhere. Of course. There are fears associated with scarcity and they’re readily transferable from seller to buyer which typically result in “No sale!”

Financial viability

If there is one place that you want to be financially sound it’s your bank. For a bank that took one hit to it’s reputation vis-a-vis a $ 45 billion dollars in TARP money, it seems unconscionable that they’d express the need for new revenues in the form of penalty fees so quickly after having just repaid the TARP money.

Encouraging customer exodus

Basically BOA is encouraging customers to take their business elsewhere. Their belief is that customers won’t leave. That belief stems from the fact that banking possesses a herd mentality and they’re relying on other banks to follow their lead. If that happens, at least in their minds, their customers won’t exist over the changed policy. Is that a risk you want to take in your business?

I don’t feel that I can be critical unless I’m willing to offer an alternative. BOA could have rebundled it’s offerings with higher prices and greater benefits, offered its customers options to meet their varying needs, embarked upon a new ad campaign designed to engage their customers in making a choice that fits their needs. Encouraged human contact knowing that most people, for most transactions, are going to opt for the convenience of ATMs and online banking.

Apparently it’s counter-intuitive that focusing on your needs rather than your customers’ needs usually results in lost business.

Don’t fall into this trap!  Whenever you feel the inclination to change your company’s policies, make sure that you’re considering how you, as a buyer, would respond if you were presented with that policy.

Dale Furtwengler helps his clients get higher prices for their products and services regardless of what their competitors or the economy are doing. For more pricing tips visit his Pricing for Profit blog

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