But Sir, We Are Offering You an Upgrade!

Posted by Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon

So recently most blog posts have been about Baldrige Program news and changes. With all the changes occurring in the Baldrige Program, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the Criteria for Performance Excellence remain a great guidepost for evaluating our own organizations and those that provide us products and services.

This blog post is about credit card services and is probably so typical of experiences we all have that you can only sit back and enjoy, even while it is happening to you. I got a Customer service representativeletter from my VISA credit card supplier, with a printed note on the outside of the envelope “Loyal Customer Upgrade Inside.” I must admit being the recipient of frequent mailings with promises on the outside, this made me immediately skeptical, rather than anticipating good news. My instincts were right. The letter inside said that my credit card program was being discontinued in favor of a “new and better” (uh..oh) program. The new program was offering me three points per dollar for some purchases, two points for others and one point for most purchases. The 3 point offers were for merchants I never use (and they know that from my purchase history), two points for the purchases I make most frequently with the current credit card, and one point for everything else. So my upgrade was, in essence, to two points per dollar spent for the bulk of my purchases on this card. Let’s compare that to my current situation. I get one point per dollar spent, plus a 3% cash rebate. Maybe they were being silent on the cash rebate and this really was a doubling of my points?

With some assumed foreknowledge of what was coming, I called the 800 number to find out the details of the upgrade. It was as stated in the letter and no cash rebate. I said I respectfully decline the upgrade and want to stick with my current card. Not an option the representative tells me. I explain the loss associated with “the upgrade”. She says but your points per dollar will double (to a value of 2% of my purchases). I explain kindly that I currently receive 4% (three in cash and one in points).

Then the scripted response, “But sir, we are offering you an upgrade, most customers appreciate upgrades.” We entered a non-sensical dialog for a few minutes. It ended with me cancelling the credit card. I would say my cancellation was 25% protest of the “upgrade” and 75% disgust with the company’s customer engagement strategy (or lack thereof) and their training/empowerment of their customer representative. Please let these people have enough power to at least say, “I can’t meet your old terms, this is not an upgrade for you, it is for others with different use patterns.” Mind you my use of the VISA card was to purchase products associated with the company they had co-branded the VISA card with.

It is well known through published studies that a satisfied customer tells many fewer people about their experience than a dissatisfied customer. There’s even a book entitled, Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3000. (How many of you are reading this blog post?)

Customer and workforce engagement drive business results. Study the extensive research by the Gallup organization, leading to the Q12 and CE11surveys of employee and customer engagement. It is why Category 3 of the Baldrige Criteria focuses on customer engagement andd loyalty strategies. It is why Category 5 of the Criteria focuses on workforce engagement, empowerment, and development strategies. It is why Baldrige organizations succeed in the marketplace!

So my advice to all organizations with customers and employees is read or reread these two categories of the Baldrige Criteria and then put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Do you feel good? I hope so, but many of you are probably squirming right now. In that case, take two doses of Baldrige Criteria, exercise them with your colleagues in the morning, and start feeling better! I do after writing this blog post!


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