Friday, February 27, 2009

Breaking up is hard to do

I have been using the same credit card issued by a foreign bank incorporated in Singapore for quite a few years now, and I charge almost everything I buy to it because I don't carry a lot of cash with me. So the monthly bill is quite a bit because it reflects almost my entire expenditure, from necessities to household bills, and maybe the occasional luxury shopping item. But that helps me keep track of all my various expenditures at a single go.

But the card doesn't offer me very much benefits, other than accumulated bonus points, which can be redeemed for mostly shopping vouchers. Which holds no attraction for me since I'm not a great shopper. The card also offers some discounts at selected merchants. Which also doesn't appeal to me since a 10-20% discount is really just making you pay 80-90% for something.

So when a local bank offered a credit card that gives cash rebates, I decided that it'll benefit me more, and I decided to switch credit cards.

Getting a new one was easy. Cancelling the existing one was much harder. Foreign Bank Incorporated In Singapore wasn't going to let go of me that easily. When I called customer service, they politely told me that someone else would return my call.

Two days later, nobody had called me. So I called again. They either had a lot of people wanting to cancel their credit cards or they're making breaking up hard to do, I told customer service, even though I knew it wasn't their fault. They had to pass me on to someone more senior. And this time, they did. No call backs, they transferred me through straightaway. Well, not exactly straightaway. I was put on hold for a few minutes, during which a recorded voice informed me that Foreign Bank Incorporated in Singapore was aware that my time was very precious, that my call was important to them, and that I would be tended to shortly.

By a senior officer who had the authorisation to dangle all sorts of carrots -- freebies and bonuses -- to make me retain my credit card. She would upgrade me to a Platinum card. Not interested. She would give me vouchers and discounts, mostly at premium merchants. Don't shop there. She would waive the annual charge for the Platinum card. Local Bank's credit card waived the charges for three years.

She only gave up when I pointed out to her that I'm still a customer of Foreign Bank Incorporated in Singapore -- I still have a bank account with them, it's only the credit card that I'm cancelling. And that I will probably still let my money stay in Foreign Bank Incorporated in Singapore. Even though market talk has it that Foreign Bank Incorporated in Singapore's overseas parent may be nationalised.

The thing is, it isn't only the banks who are bending over backwards and dangling carrots when customers want to walk. Various service companies, telcos especially, are equally guilty. They offer all sorts of gifts and bonuses to attract new customers to sign on with them. But these are never offered to long-time customers who have remained with them. They only woo these people when they want to leave. And by then it's too late, the customer's mind is made up long before he reached the exit. You're just lucky he's not letting the door hit you on his way out. Isn't retaining a customer is more important than getting a new one a fundamental rule taught in business school? Well, I guess some people have been skipping classes.

1 comment:

dona said...

Perfectly said, snug.