Independent Thinking Blog

Don’t Cheap Yourself Out of a Customer

I’ve been trying to get “free” checks from PNC Bank for six weeks. Free, apparently, is a very relative term.

PNC Bank has lost a lot.

Here’s a brief chronology of what happened:

1. Mid-March: Call 800 number to order more checks. On hold, on hold, on hold, automated information, more automated info, more automated info, transferred to a person. Person’s job is to try to get me to pay for expedited shipping (no thanks), shipping with tracking (no thanks). Warns me that checks might get lost.

2. Hang up phone. Figure I’ll never see checks.

3. Mid-April: Hmm… checks never arrive.

4.  Mid-April: Local branch manager puts hold on all the checks that were “lost” and reorders checks–jumping numbers.

5. Mid-April: Receive automated letter from PNC Bank saying they won’t send me new checks until I have one more check processed. Seriously, they wrote:

“Based on your current check usage, we estimate that a check reorder will be placed for you once 1 [sic] more checks are processed from this account from the time this letter was mailed to you.”


6. I immediately write a check for cash for $0.05–and go online to look at moving my accounts to USAA.

PNC Bank does one thing very right (and it’s not corporate communications). It invests in its employees.

So I’m in my local bank branch asking them to pry loose my new checks and getting ready to cash my $0.05 check.

They get it. The branch manager isn’t in yet, but her colleague whom I’ve dealt with before completely understands my frustration–from the upsell effort the first time to the auto-generated letter that has me shopping around for a new bank. (And he mentions his own bang-head-on-desk problem with a mobile company.) He looks at my account, and guess what? Apparently my checks are in the mail this time. We’ll see.

The banker realizes I’m a valuable customer. I just wish his bank did.

That PNC Bank invests in its employees might just have saved them a customer. But my feeling about the brand has changed completely. This “free checks” saga has cost me time (which equals money) and a lot of hassle. But it’s cost PNC Bank a valued customer. I may stay (undecided), but I don’t like them anymore.

Every touchpoint is part of your brand experience. Don’t devalue that by spending a lot of time, money, and effort to be cheap.

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