Monday, February 12, 2007

Credit Where It's Not Due

Maureen wrote about those endless credit card offers that many of us get; like her, I am unimpressed (or even annoyed) by them. I dutifully shred them, and when they appear, I always think, I really need to call that bank and tell them to stop it. (I did this once; it worked.)

Now I'm getting a set of them that particularly bug me, though. Last fall I became the treasurer of a non-profit group. Naturally, this meant that we had to go the bank so that I could be added as a signatory on the account and others could be removed. We updated all of the information, and as part of this the bank needed my home address (the group has a PO box). Fine.

Since then I've been getting credit card solicitations from that bank once or twice a week... addressed to a former officer of the organization at my home address.

This is not so much about the stupidity of it; it's a great example of how cavalier banks are with customer information. I've had several issues with this over the years, from a bank that randomly changed my address to somewhere in Maryland and started sending someone else my statements, to another bank that swallowed up a smaller bank (of which I'd been a customer years earlier, in another state) and then kept repeatedly changing my address back to the one from years ago.

Banks are, apparently, incompetent at managing databases. They also make a lot of money off of the information in them. It's a recipe for problems.

The marketing part of this? You can't expect to deepen a relationship with a customer when you behave in such an untrustworthy manner. There's a reason that most people have, at best, neutral feelings about their banks; they're aware that the bank is eager to nickel and dime them, they see the barrage of junk mail from them, and they often know that the bank is selling their name to more people for more solicitations. Would you feel good about doing business them someone like that?

When an industry is as bad about this as banks are, it creates a market opportunity. I was shocked to get a privacy notice from ING Direct that informed me that they didn't need me to opt out of anything; they simply don't sell their customers' information, period.

I don't know of any other bank that does that, but now that ING is offering checking accounts, I'm considering moving everything over to them - even though I'm so entwined with my currect bank (thanks to bill presentment and payment services) that it would be challenging.

Take a look at the approaches of your competitors toward things like customer privacy and then don't match them - beat them. And talk about it.


Mary Schmidt said...

And, as you've noted before, getting "new" offers from credit cards I already have is just - well - dumb. And, I start to wonder why as a "valued customer" I don't get the same benefits as the new accounts.

Further, those letters to "valued customers" don't mean much when they're addressed to, "Mary Smith" at Schmidt & Associates.

Hello? Capital One? I've had your card for years - and a growing money market account. (They do have great rates). Doncha think you could clean up your database?

Years ago, I could always tell what group had sold my name to others - They had made a typo in their original list (I was "achmidt"). If you're gonna sell me, at least get my name right! ;-)

Mark Cahill said...

The sheer number of trees that are killed just so I can throw out those stupid envelopes...

One of the guys who spoke years ago at a DMA event I went to said he always made a point of signing up for stuff with a different middle name - and that he actually tracked who sold his name and what they did with it.

Your advice "don't match them - beat them" is perfect - that's one we should all have hanging off our computer monitors.