A Tale of Two Credit Cards - Why Customer Service is Marketing, Too

These guys were totally frightened by my credit card rates.
Photo: Leah Ibraheem
I have two credit cards - one I use several times a year for making travel arrangements, and a second one that's a backup.

Earlier tonight, I called my main credit card company to ask them to lower my rate. I'd read a number of scripts for this conversation and planned to tell them all about how I had received better offers from other companies, that my rate was too high, that I have excellent credit, and they should help me out.

The first person I talked to said that I already had the best rate and that she would not be making any changes. I said, "I guess you'll just need to cancel my card, then."

I'd read in all the scripts that you should do that.

She said, "OK."

Wow.

So I was transferred to a supervisor and she couldn't lower my rate either. After several minutes of negotiations, she offered me two months of interest payments back, which was nice. I was not happy that they wouldn't lower my rate, but this was better than nothing. Feeling empowered, I called my other credit card company, which happens to be Discover.

The woman at Discover was the nicest woman ever. She even told me where she was located (Portland, Oregon) and thanked me for my eleven-year, six-month relationship with Discover. She asked me how she could help, and was interested and enthusiastic.

Well, let me tell you this -

Not only had Discover recently evaluated my situation and taken the initiative to lower my existing rate by five points (which I didn't know since this happened after my last statement), they readily agreed to offer me a 6-month promotional rate that was another eight (eight!) points lower than the new rate they'd already extended to me. That's 13 points!

After that, my customer service rep let me know about some additional discounts I could get for travel and a special cash-back bonus on home improvement items that begins this month. She never rushed me and she kept thinking of more and more ways she could help me.

Her goal: to make sure that my Discover card was my primary card, which it hasn't been - I hardly ever use it.

But that's about to change. Why? Because Discover's marketing, sales, and customer service are integrated to effectively save, keep, sell, and serve me, all at the same time. How does that work?
  • They were actually working proactively to save me by assessing my account and lowering my rate before I even called.
  • They were ready to keep me with an additional offer to make their card even more of a value.
  • They had several product suggestions ready to sell me - products that would save me further on things I'm already buying, deals which are useful to me specifically.
  • They emphasized how much they wanted to serve me by identifying the length of our relationship, thanking me for it, and offering numerous ways to help.
What can we learn from this?

Maybe it's time to take another look at your customer service operation - does it work to save, keep, sell, and serve your customers? How can your marketing department help your customer service reps with the right things to say, great offers, and the power to use tools like special promotions, savings clubs, and new products to keep your customers happy?

I'd love to hear about what you're doing to save, keep, sell, and serve. Please tell me in the comments, or send me a note.

So, which credit card just moved from my desk drawer to my wallet? Three guesses, and the first two don't count.

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