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Chasing Customers Away

I used to carry a Chase Visa card. The name of the financial institution mattered to me, but it mattered more that the card they issued was a Visa. Since I did a lot of travel in Europe, both for work and vacation, having a Visa in my wallet was an advantage. My corporate card, American Express, was not accepted everywhere. So in my case, the old slogan: “Visa, it’s everywhere you want to be” was true.

I used to carry a Chase Visa card. The name of the financial institution mattered to me, but it mattered more that the card they issued was a Visa. Since I did a lot of travel in Europe, both for work and vacation, having a Visa in my wallet was an advantage. My corporate card, American Express, was not accepted everywhere. So in my case, the old slogan: “Visa, it’s everywhere you want to be” was true.

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If you carry any credit cards, you might be familiar with the various pieces of mail you receive from the financial institution that brands the cards – even if at the time of this story we did not yet have all the privacy statements, they were still many. At some point, I received one such communication from Chase that they were going to upgrade my card to platinum. That was the part of the news I got from the mailing in very fine print.

Putting the news aside for more mundane things, I did not think about the communication until I received my brand new platinum Chase MasterCard. Wait a moment, wasn’t it a Visa? You were paying attention, and yes it was. It so just happened that I was already a customer of MasterCard from another financial institution and did not particularly need more of them in my wallet.

So I called Chase and after hitting many numbers on my touch-tone phone, I finally got to a live person; life was good, now I could explain they had made a mistake. The conversation went like this:

“Hello, how are you doing today?” said the customer service rep at Chase.

“Very well, thank you,” I tend to start these calls on the cheery side for good measure.

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“How can I help you today?” he says.

“Well, I just received my new platinum Chase card, and I think there was a mistake,” and then I plunge in, “It’s a MasterCard and I used to carry a Visa.”

“There was no mistake, the platinum Chase is a MasterCard.”

“Well then, since I did not ask to be upgraded to a platinum card, can I please have my old Chase Visa back?”

“That is not possible; Chase has upgraded to MasterCard.”

“So let me understand this, indulge me for a moment. Are you saying that all of the cards Chase issues are now MasterCard?”

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“Yes madam, that’s what I’m saying.”

“But I already carry a MasterCard. I want a Visa.”

“We switched thousands of customers and nobody is complaining.”

“I’m not complaining, I’m explaining to you that I do not need a MasterCard and I want a Visa.”

“We communicated that to all our customers and nobody complained.”

“Sir, this is not a complaint, it’s a request. And I am not thousands of customers; I am the one who is talking with you on the phone now.”

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“Is there anything else I can do for you at this time?”

“Well, I guess there isn’t. Chase has already decided to cut an exclusive deal with MasterCard, whether its customers like it or not.”

“Thank you for doing business with Chase, goodbye.”

And that was the end of the call. The extremely polite customer service rep has been trained to follow the guidelines, not take comments or feedback from his company’s customers. Since I did not intend to keep the card and carried no balance on the account, I wrote a letter to the President of Chase Bank at the time explaining why I was canceling my card and referencing my call.

I never heard back: I guess I was just one person who did not matter compared to thousand of customers. This person was a communications and marketing professional, but they might not have known or cared about that.

What happens when the person becomes a blogger? I’m sure she is still one in a million, isn’t she? Think again. If this post doesn’t convince you, read what Toby Bloomberg says in a similar situation at The Diva Marketing blog where she tells of her experience with Capital One. Now that I’m connecting the dots with this post, could the story gain momentum? Possibly…

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More importantly, why not listen to customers? Why not take the time to answer letters and emails? If the communications come from just one customer here and there, it wouldn’t be so time consuming after all and you might make a few friends in doing so. That person on the other end of your phone might be an influential. Is it smart to ignore the inquiries of customers? In this new business context where social media is gaining in credibility and scope can you afford to ignore these inquiries? What’s in *your* wallet?

Valeria Maltoni • Conversation Agent • Philadelphia, PA • ConversationAgent@gmail.comwww.conversationagent.com