Blame the Customer

You probably get the customers you deserve.

quality I learned that a major  American bank wants its customers to be its testers. And it fines them if they miss a defect.

A friend of mine—call him Van—fired that bank recently.

Van admits he doesn’t scour bank statements.  He scans for obvious problems, like a balance thousands of dollars off from what he expects. If he finds none, he moves on with his life.

Not long ago, he noticed something called an “Advantage Fee.”  It was small, but Van did some research.  He learned that he’d been charged the fee for a long time, but that his account type and history should have exempted him.

“The bank customer service agent was great,” he told me. “She said it looked like I’d gotten the fee stopped before, but somehow it got turned back on about a year ago.”

The agent stopped the fee, credited his account for six months, and promised to submit a request to credit him for the earlier months.  The bank’s software limited her to a six-month refund.

Weeks later, Van received a terse letter from the bank. It informed Van that they would not credit the rest of the amount they erroneously charged him because Van wasn’t reviewing his statements carefully enough.

“You should have told us sooner.”

That’s right: the bank was keeping a customer’s money because the customer didn’t perform quality assurance checks on the bank’s flawed software.

Some process-and-policy wonk probably received a commendation for saving the bank $60.  That two-figure savings cost the bank a six-figure household.  It also undermined the credibility of a helpful and friendly customer service agent.

On the bright side, maybe the bank will replace Van with a new, young, low-income customer who scours her statement every month and challenges every item.

Have a Social Media Referral Strategy?


Twitter and facebook can bring  a lot of new customers your way, especially through social referrals. With a little planning and strategy, you can stack the deck to attract new customers who share a lot in common with your best and most loyal customers.

Quick Story

During a program redesign, the topic of referrals came up. I was looking for a place to deploy our new social media referral tools. In the course of the conversation, though, I decided to pull back the referral option.

Why would a proponent of this exciting new technology pull it off the table?

Simple: this program didn’t fit the profile for a social media referral strategy.

Social Media Referrals Are Different

If the program were a classic loyalty program aimed at top and near-top customer segments, I’d have pushed on. But this program was more of a promotion aimed at price-driven customers. To illustrate my reasoning, let’s look at the difference between a social media referral and a traditional referral.

The last time I bought a new car, the salesman worked hard to get names of people I knew who needed or wanted a new car. He asked me to give his card and a gift certificate to friends who loved the new vehicle.

This is traditional referral. Get a customer to refer you to people they know who are likely to want whatever they just bought.

But that’s not how social media referrals work.

When I tweet out that I just bought a car from Joe Carr’s Used Cars, thousands of my followers will see it. And they couldn’t care less. No one follows me to find out where I bought my car. They follow me for other reasons.

If I tweeted, however, that “@Joe_Carr_Cars the most honest car dealership in town,” people might pay attention. Followers who appreciate honesty will take note. Likewise, if I tweet that @Joe_Carr_Cars fixed a squeak for free,” people motivated by reliability will take note.

Now, suppose I tweet, “@Joe_Carr_Cars car prices are the cheapest in town-20 percent below Blue Book.” Who will flock to Joe’s? People who value integrity? Maybe. People who treasure reliability? Perhaps. People looking to pay very little? Absolutely.

Social Media Referral Strategy

Simply requiring customers to earn the privilege of referring will improve the quality of referrals you get through social media. For example, “Achieve level 3 to unlock the Referral Tool.” Then give customers the opportunity to earn something of value for their referral efforts. You’ve made the act of referring more interesting while attracting new customers who look like your best customers.

Why Stop at Red Light Cameras?

I’ve written about this before.

The problem with traffic signals is that they make all of the problems they’re designed to solve worse. By “all the problems” I mean:

  • Pollution
  • Congestion
  • Deaths
  • Accidents
  • Speed of Transit
  • Risk to pedestrians (except those with certain disabilities)

 Banning red light cameras is a great first step, but the ultimate goal should be elimination of traffic lights altogether. 

Watch both episodes. Decide for yourself.

Turning the lights off worked.

  • Less pollution
  • Fewer accidents (cars and pedestrians)
  • Less congestion
  • Shorter commutes
  • Safer roads
  • Happier people
  • Up to 20 percent better fuel economy

Join Free to Choose. Let’s bring the movement to America and to St. Louis.