The obtuseness of American business is just unbelievable. The month of October saw Bank of America pounded like a piece of raw beef when it tried to impose a five-dollar fee on its debit card users. Bad press rained down upon the company like a rain forest monsoon. Times are tough, everyone has their hand in our wallet trying to shake loose what little cash we have. Imaging my surprise when over my coffee this morning I heard that Verizon was planning to charge a two-dollar ‘convenience fee’ to their customers, of which I am one. The ‘convenience’ we would be paying for would be the convenience of paying our bill. Huh?
Lets get this straight. Someone in corporate thought this was a good idea? So the company logic is spend money on advertising telling us how we are getting more by signing with Verizon at a better price than turn around and charge two-bucks a month for paying the bill! I can see Sprint coming up with an ad similar to Southwest Airlines ‘No Bag Fees’ commercials. What is in the skulls of Verizon executives? Where are the leaders at the company, more importantly where are the thinkers?
At nine this morning my immediate thought was what a public relations disaster this fee would be. How long would the fee last? Even I was surprised by the text from CNN at 3:32 telling me that Verizon was dropping the charge. Here is the deal, image matters. Everyone knows that businesses need to make money. But the nickel and dime strategy of feeing your customers does not fly.
Build the cost into your fee structure and sell your product on the best bottom line value. Charging people for paying their bill is the stuff Saturday Night Live skits are made of. The Verizon public image went from cheap bastards to know nothings in the course of several hours. Verizon should have known it was pulling the pin on a PR grenade.
We often hear that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Of course we think that the ‘history’ is decades, if not centuries old. Guess what, apparently October must now be considered ancient history. The world of social media, texting and instant communication, which Verizon built its business on, has risen up and smacked its corporate head. Pay attention.
The issue with Bank of America and Verizon was not ‘banking fees’ or ‘bill fees’, it was fees. Consumers have had it with them and now have the tools to rally support against unpopular moves by companies. More than ever it is important to be upfront with the customer. Fail at that and your image and bottom line will decline.