Can A Credit Department Affect A Brand? – Part One

Recently, my wife received a form letter from FDS Bank, a sister company of Macy’s, informing her that her account was past due in the amount of $27. The letter contained a politely veiled reference to the possibility that, if she didn’t handle the matter promptly, they could inflict serious injury to her good credit rating.

For many people, that thinly disguised threat would be meaningless. For my wife, it was a declaration of war. She guards her credit rating like a lioness protects her cubs.

Here’s where Macy’s brand begins to come into play. My wife didn’t owe a dime. The supposed delinquency arose because Macy’s made a series of mistakes: First, they erroneously charged her account for late fees on a purchase after she returned the item and had her account credited for the full amount. She brought her receipts to the store, went to the credit department and supposedly had the whole matter cleared up. But the late fees kept appearing, together with the charge for the item returned and supposedly credited.

My wife called the toll free number on the collection letter. “George” answered the phone. My wife asked “George” if he was located in the U.S.

“I’m in India,” he responded.

“I want to speak to a supervisor located in the United States,” she said.

She was put on hold – for about ten minutes – while the call was transferred.

“Hello, this is Jim,” said the new voice.

“Are you a supervisor located in the U.S.?” my wife asked.

“I’m in India,” he said.

My wife went through the process again. Another ten minutes on hold. Then a woman answered, and assured my wife that she was a supervisor located in the U.S. My wife explained the problem. The woman researched her file, quickly found the mistakes and blandly said, “Sorry.”

Remember, we are talking about $27, with a customer who has been shopping at Macy’s for twenty years. Two minutes of research were all that was needed to find the error and make the correction – a correction that should have been made on two previous occasions.

“Here’s what I want from Macy’s,” said my wife: “a written letter of apology; and a copy of my account record showing that the correction was made and that my account has a zero balance. When I get those documents, I will tear up my Macy’s card, close out my account and you will never see me in a Macy’s store again.”

“I’m sorry,” came the reply. It might as well have been uttered from a voice synthesizer.

And just like that, a customer of twenty years went away. But situations like that do not have to occur. In the next segment, I’ll talk about how to prevent those kinds of disastrous encounters. Stay tuned.

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