Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How To Offend Your Customers: Threaten Them

In the US, your credit rating is very important to consumers.  People with good credit can borrow to homes and cars, those without cannot do so except at exorbitant rates, if at all.  Increasingly, companies have been quick to deny credit and cut off service, even to customers with fairly good track records.

And now there's a new game in town: threatening customers before they've even missed a payment.  I know because it's happened to me twice in the last week.  First, I got a threatening letter from my mortgage company.  They told me I was delinquent on my mortgage payment and threatened me with dire consequences if I failed to pay immediately.

Panic ensued.  How could I be late on a mortgage that was just re-financed?  I had provided automatic payment information when I completed the re-finance.  Indeed, after a few phone calls, it turned out that I was not delinquent at all.  The mortgage company's systems, seeing no record of past payments, decided to send me an automated threatening letter, oblivious to the fact that new mortgages have no payment record.

Isolated incident?  I would have thought so except that three days later, Verizon interrupted a phone call to inform me that unless I paid immediately, I  would be cut off as my bill was delinquent.  How was that possible when they had my credit card and I had authorized automatic payment?  Apparently it takes 30 days for them to realize that they have my credit card.

In both cases, attempts by the bank and Verizon to collect on non-delinquent accounts used the kind of language that I'd normally expect for someone who's months overdue and has lied twice about "the check being in the mail."  Threatening people like this is a great way to alienate customers and damage your brand.

Shoot First and Ask Questions Later.  It's the new way to do business.  Photo by Rob Sameehan.

No comments:

Post a Comment