During the pandemic, many companies have tried to show they are concerned about their customers. Whether giving extra time to pay bills, rebates on insurance premiums, or offering low or no interest financing on larger purchases, these companies are trying to balance staying in business with showing care towards the plights of their customers, who may be working on reduced pay or not have a job at all.
Then there is Financer X. Financer X is the bank behind a store-based credit card. You know the type. Your favorite department store has a credit card, but it is not serviced by the store, but by the bank who actually extends the credit offer.
Henry had accepted an offer from the department store to finance the purchase of a piece of furniture. The offer was no interest to pay off the piece of furniture at no interest if the payments were made in a certain amount of time. Henry took the offer and budgeted accordingly to pay off before the 27% interest the card charged took effect.
During the pandemic, Henry was fortunate enough to continue work, but his employer had informed him and his fellow staffers that they would be getting a pay cut. It was either everyone took the cut or some staffers would have to be furloughed. With this in mind, Henry began looking at every bill that came into the house to ensure he did not overdraw his checking account balance.
Looking at the statement from Financer X, Henry was pleased to see he had only one more payment on the piece of furniture. Ensuring he wasn’t making any mistakes, and he would not have to pay any interest, he read the bill carefully. There his eye caught the following statement by the financing company.
“Our hearts go out to all those who are affected by the pandemic. Please know our call center remains open if you want to make your payment by phone.” End of statement. Well, not quite. There was a reminder that anyone who did not pay their bill in full would be subject to 27% interest as agreed to in their cardmember contract. There was nothing about payment abatement, postponing payments for the unemployed, shifting payments, or interest deferment. Nope. Financer X’s corporate heart bled for all the affected card holders, but was going to do nothing that might affect its bottom line.
As Henry arranged for an automatic payment, he made a mental note. He would not close the account, as that would affect his credit score, but he would not be shopping with Company X or using their credit card at all. It would gather dust in his desk. He would stop all email from the Company and spend his diminished resources elsewhere. Would that have any impact on Financer X or Company X? Possibly. At that fact, Henry thought, “You know, my heart goes out to them.” He promptly cut the card in two.
In times of crisis, it is your actions that people will remember. In a time when people suddenly have their incomes discontinued through no fault of their own, a company can shine through their acts of compassion, or can be tarnished through their acts of selfishness. These decisions come from the company’s leadership.
When that leadership decides to maintain profit over the suffering of their customers, it says a lot about the company and their ideals. The smart company will take a short-term hit to gain the long term benefit of loyal customers who remember the caring and commitment of that leadership. The not-so-smart company will value the next quarter and hope their customers memories are short.
Unless you sell something so unique that your customers cannot get it anywhere else, it is simply good business to show your customers you care. If you don’t demonstrate that, your customers may take their hearts, and their wallets, elsewhere.