Thank You for Paying Interest
Credit-card companies usually aren't very good at making their customers feel warm and fuzzy.
Not even knee-slapping commercials starring barbarians and fake Borats can make a person forget incomprehensible terms printed in squint-inducing type, late fees, and the pain of universal default.
But how about a handwritten thank you note?
Jeff Baron, a colleague of mine, and his wife originally signed up for an Advanta small business credit card to take advantage of an introductory offer of 2.99 percent APR on transfer balances.
"The flier for the deal was clear enough, which was one of the attractions, though of course it was accompanied by the usual fine-print brochure," he wrote in an instant message. "And I fully understand that if we are ever so much as late on a payment, Advanta can take our two children as indentured servants for seven years."
But, he says, the handwritten note he received from customer service rep Kara Cullen went a long way in smoothing over any hard feelings in advance.
The card features a soothing image of an orchid plant on the front and Cullen's scrawl on the inside, thanking him for his new business.
"It was a pleasure speaking with you," Kara wrote. "I wish you well with the approval."
Advanta, based in Spring House, Pa., is one of the largest providers of credit cards to small businesses, but it's still a lot smaller than the big guys such as Bank of America and Citibank. It has set itself apart through customer service. (What a novel strategy!)
That includes giving customer service reps stationery. Spokesman David Goodman says that in-house the notes, which have been a company practice for years, are known as "startle cards." Reps send the cards and also sometimes plants and fruit baskets "based on facts gathered during call" such as an upcoming birthday or the passing of a loved one, and, when necessary, as an apology.
The cards get their name from the reaction they inspire in customers. After all, who wouldn't be flabbergasted to get a handwritten communication from a credit-card company that doesn't say something like "we're raising your rate" or "have fun trying to decipher this microscopic legalese."
Have you ever received a "startle card" from any other large, impersonal business? And did it win you over?
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