#1 Posted: 5 Oct 2011 08:54
Recent headlines in the business world focused on a major bank that is starting to charge fees for using their debit card. While no fee for using the ATM, they are going to charge a $5.00/month fee for using the card as a debit card. It is a once a month fee, so the card can be used just once or 500 times for the same fee. Consumers have voiced their discontent.
Let's look at this from the banks point of view. It is reported that government regulations are squeezing margins. The banks have to do something to stay in business, and that may mean charging a fee for something they have given away at no charge. It wasn't that many years ago that these types of fees were the norm. Then the banks started to compete by lowering or eliminating fees. That was their way of bringing in new customers and keeping existing ones. It worked.
However the economy is different now. The banks are forced to charge these fees, but the timing of this decision is coming at a bad time. The economy is weak and unemployment is high. Consumers are in a tough spot already, and now they are being hit with unexpected fees.
Overall, consumer/customer satisfaction is low across many industries. That doesn't necessarily mean that customer service is low (although it may be), but that the economy is affecting the overall customer experience because people are just unhappy. As a result, customers watch what they spend more than usual. They want more for their money than usual. They expect a higher level of service than usual — to validate their buying decisions.
So, what should the banks do? If the fees are necessary to their survival, then so be it. Communicate with their customers. Explain why this is happening. Beef up the customer service. If you can make the customer feel good about doing business with you by delivering an amazing service experience, the price — and the fees — become less relevant. That's the customer service advantage.