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Let Customers Adjust Automation to Fit Their Needs

Mar 17, 2008
Here's a better idea: Encourage beneficiaries, customers, and users to decide how much automation they want to use . . . and when they want to use that automation. Customize your automation to uniquely fit each beneficiary, customer, and user in the same way that Dell customizes its computers for each customer.

Let's consider how this principle might work for credit card customers. Some customers would like to be able to look up details of their account on the Internet. Others would like to receive a standard oral report customized to their interests by making a toll-free telephone call. Some would like to be able to call someone who can answer their questions. A few might want to receive e-mails that provide updated account information every time there was a transaction, while others might simply want a daily e-mail update.

Whatever those individual preferences are, the customer's desires are bound to change. The process to go from one set to another set of solutions needs to be very fast and simple.

But information isn't the only thing that's automated about a credit card: The basic offer is also automated.

A customer signs up for certain benefits and agrees to pay certain charges for those benefits. Credit card companies treat customers as though their needs never change.

Customers only find out about more relevant choices when yet another unsolicited offer arrives in the mail from a competing credit card company. Wouldn't it make much more sense to just allow customers to shift benefits and charges at will on an existing account?

For instance, a company that uses its credit card very heavily to make purchases at certain times of the year might want the maximum percentage of cash back during those periods of time. When the same company's cash flow is temporarily lean, the company may find itself carrying an unpaid balance and may wish instead to receive the lowest interest rate rather than a high cash-back percentage of purchases.

Payments for credit cards are usually required to be monthly. That schedule is fine for those with a steady cash flow, but many small enterprises have greatly variable cash flows. Such firms may be strongly profitable over the course of a whole year, yet struggle for many months to make minimum payments.

Credit card companies take advantage of such variability. Carry a balance due and miss making a minimum payment, and the credit card company begins to charge penalties and interest like a loan shark.

Clearly such customers would prefer a payment schedule that required regularity as measured over a multiple-month period of time. Credit card companies might argue that regulators don't allow such flexibility. But if the cards were issued by offshore financial institutions, few regulations would limit more flexible offerings.

In fact, companies involved in global commerce might find it attractive to be able to select the currency in which charges occur and a different currency for payments. Select depreciating currencies for making payments and that's an additional discount for the company using the credit card.

The credit card issuer wouldn't be harmed because the overall currency position could be inexpensively hedged and the expense passed along to those who wanted this flexibility. Such a program would allow small companies to have the kind of inexpensive currency hedging choices that are only available now to larger firms.
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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