Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How to Lose A Customer

0_apr_credit_card My bank, Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank) recently started migrating customers away from the InterSwitch CashPlus ATM/Debit Card to the more secure “Chip and PIN” (EMV) technology. Their chosen solution is the Naira MasterCard product in still in partnership with InterSwitch. The process has been painful for me because I use my card to pay my bills online. The problem is that the Naira MasterCard doesn’t work on the old or new bills site that InterSwitch has set up (www.quickteller.com) and there is no prognosis for when it would be turned on for bills payment on their site. My problem actually started before the new card was issued. First GTBank reduced the ATM limits on the old card without informing users or at least not doing it in a way that caught my attention until I ran into problems when I needed cash for a transaction. Then they disabled the ability to use the card on most websites with equally little customer engagement. This significantly handicapped my ability to run things the way I used to.

In the pursuit of a solution, I spoke to GTBank card services, but all I got were explanations, not solutions. Almost by accident, I discovered that I could still do some of the transactions I couldn’t do online at the ATM. At least with the old card. Once that was replaced with the Naira MasterCard, that avenue went away. So I ended up having to go waste valuable time lining up in a banking hall to pay bills that for over a year I had been paying online.

Since GTB wasn’t offering me any solution, I finally managed to speak with InterSwitch personnel to be sure that it wasn’t a bug and that Naira MasterCard wasn’t yet active on Quickteller.com. They confirmed that it wasn’t in fact active yet, but (and this is the point of this post), that their Verve Card was fully functional on the site and I could get one if I had an account with a participating bank. It immediately occurred to me that several dynamics were in play in this conversation. First InterSwitch didn’t really have that much of a stake in the MasterCard thing and would be very happy if I moved to Verve, secondly my bank was at risk of loosing revenue from me and people like me because they had deliberately (I am tempted to say “with malice aforethought”) put barriers in place that were suddenly making life difficult for their customers. Third, with only a little effort I could restore my comfort zone by moving to another bank, the same way I had moved to GTBank. Lastly, the other banks were not using the opportunity to market to people suffering through this change.

All this highlights the dearth of a personalised customer orientation in big business in Nigeria. It is these little things that can make or break a relationship with customers and take revenue away from a business. There are several key lessons that I could spell out here. For one thing, you don’t leave loyal customers in the lurch when you are making this kind of change. As part of the process, you dedicate as much to the front end of managing the customer experience as you do to making sure that the technology at the back works the way it should.In corporate IT, we call it “Change Management”.

I won’t say much more than I have already said. However, we press forward with business models, especially on the internet, that cannot count on being able to afford huge expensive media blitzes to win or retain customer loyalty. As we do this, let us bear in mind that it is the simple inexpensive acts of making individual customer’s lives better, i.e. our value proposition, that will be the single strongest marketing campaign we can ever conduct.

Make each person feel special and millions will beat their way to your doorstep.