In another life, long before I got this awesome gig with MoneySmart.sg, I was a customer service officer with a bank’s credit card department. It was an eye-opener. Not only did it expose me to all kinds of frustrated customers with a whole list of complaints, it made me realise that many of these complaints are actually absolutely legitimate! After all, people do have better things to do than to call into a toll-free number for no good reason at all. Well, most people anyway. There was this one guy that…
Anyway, here are 3 common complaints that any credit card call centre receives, and some ideas on how to deal with them so that you come out on top when calling credit card companies.
1. Unable to waive credit card fees.
It’s really not surprising to find out that credit card fee waivers are the main reason call centres even exist. In my estimation, about 90% of calls from customers are regarding fee waivers. Why else would banks start to automate the fee waiver system? Instead of wasting time on the phone with a human being, you can now just key in your credit card number and a robot voice will inform you if your waiver request has been successful or not.
It takes less than a minute altogether – unless the system cannot waive the credit card fees for you.
Which would explain why not getting a fee waiver would be one of the most common complaints that a credit card call centre gets. After all, no one EXPECTS to pay for a credit card. Most of the time we were FORCED to apply for this card or that card, or we apply for the best credit card we want and end up getting two other cards we don’t!
So why should we be paying for credit cards we don’t want? But that’s no reason to get angry and upset, especially not with the customer service officer on the other end of the line. Instead, here’s what you do if your credit card fees cannot be waived.
a) Find out exactly why they are unable to waive the fee immediately.
Annual fees sometimes cannot be waived because there’s not enough usage on the card. If you only use a credit card once or twice a year, then don’t expect to get off so easily. If it’s because of late payment, then explain the circumstances behind missing the due date. If you’re a first time offender, it’ll probably be waived.
However, the fee you want waived is actually the interest on an outstanding amount on your bill that you aren’t planning to pay yet, then you’ll probably need a refresher course on how credit cards work.
b) Appeal to a higher authority for the fee to be waived.
If, for some obscure reason, you still want to keep a credit card you don’t use often, then explain to the customer service officer that you’d like to appeal for the waiver, and explain why. Providing a good reason like “This was my first ever credit card, I promise to use it more often in the coming year” often helps. Saying “I like the credit card number leh, got a lot of 8s inside, very lucky” probably won’t make a difference to your case.
c) Threaten to cancel the card.
This is a last resort tactic that may or may not work. Sometimes, the customer service officer will consider your threat as a reason to submit the fee waiver appeal. Sometimes, though, you have to be prepared to actually get the card cancelled. It’s not a big deal if you were never using the card often, of course, but if you still have an instalment plan on it, or any other outstanding amounts, then you’ll need to pay it off in full soon after the card is cancelled.
It must be said, of course, that while cancelling the card automatically waives the annual fee, you’ll probably still need to pay any late fees or interest charged.
2. Unable to verify customer.
Imagine this scenario: You’re in a packed MRT carriage in the middle of rush hour and you want to find out information about a suspicious transaction on your credit card bill. At first the call seems to be going smoothly. You readily give your full name and your date of birth for verification (while enjoying the impressed or envious looks on the faces of those within earshot when it turns out you’re older than you look).
Then the interrogation begins. Do you remember the details of your last transaction? What was the time when you last withdrew money from the ATM? What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?
Here’s the “correct” answer to all three questions (yes, I know the last one is from Monty Python): HOW THE HELL WOULD I KNOW?!
Banks, I get it. I’m not unreasonable. In order to keep your information private and secure, the customer service officer needs to make sure that they are speaking to the actual customer and not some con artist or hacker pretending to be you. Here’s the irony, a hacker is more likely to be able to answer those questions than you, because they would have all your information readily available.
How do you deal with this situation?
Don’t lose your cool. Remember that if a customer service officer cannot serve you because they aren’t able to verify you, that’s a GOOD thing. It means your privacy and security are intact. If you are worried that your card details have been compromised, then you can suggest that they immediately block your credit card from further use. They should not need to verify you to do this.
If you want more details about the transaction, or want to take further action, then you’ll need to call back when it’s more convenient for you to have your personal banking information at your fingertips.
3. Unable to provide accurate information about marketing promotions.
Let’s be honest here. The main reason we apply for credit cards is not because of the convenience, or the prestige. It’s for the perks that come with holding a credit card, and the many, many marketing promotions that come with it.
So when the details of a credit card promotion are unclear or misleading, naturally we call the bank’s hotline to find out more information. Now, here’s the big secret: the customer service officer taking your call probably knows only as much as you do about the promotion! That’s right, as much as you want it to be, people who work for credit card companies are not connected by some psychic link where all information is updated in real-time.
For example, the customer service officer you’re with on the phone does not control what the promoter at the shopping mall redemption booth says. If the promoter was misinformed and advised you wrongly, please don’t take it out on the customer service officer who wouldn’t know any better. Also, think about it this way, you want the customer service officer ON YOUR SIDE. If anything, any service recovery actions will come from them. Being aggressive and rude to them will not help the situation.
So what should you do in such a frustrating situation?
Always get the names of both the promoter who assisted you at the redemption booth and the customer service officer who received your call. Regardless of how you wish to raise a complaint, whether via e-mail or over the phone, explain clearly and evenly what you intend to get out of this. That way, the appropriate service recovery action can take place. For example, explaining that you were misinformed and simply wish to redeem a certain item worth $50 may prompt them to give you that very item, or at least, something of equal value as service recovery. Screaming and shouting “I AM VERY UPSET I WANT TO SPEAK TO YOUR CEO NOW OR I WILL CALL THE POLICE!!!” will probably prompt the customer service officer to call the police first.
What other common complaints do you have with credit card call centres? We want to hear your horror stories.