Monday, July 6, 2009

Good customers, bad customer

A little mouse reports that he was in real danger of getting tossed from a focus group recently.

The mouse and his cohorts were to look at some potential credit card programs designed to gauge their reaction to them. Some of them included terms like "since I am a good customer", like "the card issuer should give me reward points since I am a good customer, paying on time and in full", etc.

Mouse could stand it no longer. He pointed out that terms like good and bad are reversed in the credit card world. Specificially, a good customer is one that hovers around or exceeds his credit line but continues to make payments without defaulting. A bad customer is one who pays their balance on time and in full. This customer is so bad that the issuer label for this customer is deadbeat. The room went silent. The group leader was not amused.

A couple of participants picked up the ball and started referring to "what we would consider to be a good customer" explictly when describing customer behaviour. The leader became even less amused. A couple of the more naive panelists shook their heads and couldn't believe it. Of course, these were the only two who said they regularly flirted with the high end of their credit line, and stayed with their current CC issuer because they called to alert them of fraud.

Seriously, do you think the CC called about a fraudulent charge to protect you? No, you don't have responsibility for fraudulent charges; the issuer does. They are covering their own a$$. This is the kind of upside-down, perverse spin that keeps usurious CC issuers in business. The leader liked the the sheeple that fall for this crap because they are a cash ATM that keeps going, and going...

At the end it turns out that the whole thing was intended to gauge customer amenability to programs that enable cardholders to exceed their credit line. The CC issuer was panicking because of the recent CC-related legislation, and needed to see how to get people to pay money for the ability to exceed their credit line. The presenter put it like this: "the new law says that you are not allowed to exceed your credit line". Gasps from the room. "Unless you have already agreed to a program". It falls into place. We see the end game.

The issuer is spinning it amazingly well. No, it's not that the customer is no longer able to wander into that spiralling black hole of overlimit fees and high balances that make the issuers so much money.* It's that the customer is being oppressed! Hogtied!

It's like a rancher telling sheep they are no longer allowed to get rid of all that heavy, hot wool. Shearing is outlawed! Unless you agree to it beforehand...

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