Recently I experienced first-hand what can happen when a company relies too heavily on automation. I have been a long-time loyal customer of a very large bank for almost 15 years. I will not name names, but I will say it is one of the largest banks in the world. Both my business and personal MasterCards are issued from this bank. Between the two, I am sure the bank has made many thousands of dollars of profit from me over the years in transaction fees and the occassional late fee / interest charge. I always pay my balance in full. In this day and age when more and more people are defaulting on their credit card bills, I thought I would be a "valued customer." Based on their actions, I couldn't be more wrong.
The other day I get an automated call from the bank that said my account was late and as a result they were reducing my credit limit by 90%. I am more than a bit perplexed since I paid my last month’s balance in full some days ago. To add insult to injury, the automated call gave me no option to speak with a live person! After giving me the bad news, the computer simply hung up (no doubt to make the next call). Isn't that a nice way to treat your long-time loyal customers? My wife said I should dump them and switch banks. Out of professional curiosity I decided to call to hear their side of the story.
The customer service rep was very friendly, to her credit. She proceeded to tell me that this is “standard procedure” and I would need to wait 30-60 days to ask for my credit back. I asked her to please check my file, which she did. She came back in less than 60 seconds and said she was putting in a request for immediate full reinstatement. Although she never said “oops” you could tell in her tone that she thought their decision to cut my credit was crazy. Shortly thereafter a manager fully reinstated my account.
This whole experience told me that the bank really doesn’t value me as a customer. It left a bad taste in my mouth that has caused me to switch a lot of purchases over to American Express. No doubt someone at the bank wrote a program that scans accounts for late balances. This is fine. Where the bank went wrong is completely automating the response mechanism. Ideally, the program would be designed to take more than just the balance into account. If it did, I am sure I never would have had that call. At a minimum, their outbound call should have given me the option to speak with someone right away.
Earlier this year this bank had some trouble paying their bills. Did we cut off their credit? No, we rewarded their excesses with one of the largest bailouts in the history of mankind. We were told by many in Washington that this bank was “too big to fail.” Based on the experiences of this one long-time customer, I am beginning to think this bank is JUST TOO BIG!