Dec 29, 2009

How To Lose A Customer: Citibank Mortgage

We've had the mortgage on our house for seven years and, thanks to an automatic payment system, the mortgage has been paid ahead of schedule every single month.

This month, however, Citibank Mortgage managed to somehow lose track of the payment. (Our bank has records showing that it was paid and money was transferred on the usual date.)

The harassing automated calls began sometime last week (we were away) and continued through this morning... despite our getting on the phone 3 different times and speaking with someone at Citi Mortgage who claimed they'd rectify the issue.

This morning we received another automated call, this despite the Citi mortgage website showing that we are actually paid up through February 2010.

Another call to Citi Mortgage, another profound apology. (Based on the South Asian accents of the people we spoke with, I can only but assume we are actually speaking with a call center in India and not anyone in any position of authority.)

So here's what I don't get:

1. Why, after 7 straight years of prompt payment, would they feel compelled to immediately subject us to 4 harassing phone calls a day over a payment that, if it were late (it wasn't) would only have been two weeks late? I can understand if we were consistently late or if we had a funky adjustable mortgage. But we don't. Wouldn't a polite call or note asking what was up been the smart thing to do?

2. Why has no one in a position of authority with Citi Mortgage called to apologize? It's not like they're the only game in town and in the midst of The Great Recession, good customers are hard to come by. Harassing a good customer over the holiday for an error of your own creation seems like just the sort of circumstance a "we're very sorry let us make it up to you" letter calls for.

One of the great things about the digital era is that we can record shabby service for posterity and I firmly believe that it will eventually catch up with the perpetrators. Good customer service is often seen as wasteful because it requires real humans with the power to make decisions exercising subjective judgment rather than computer programs acting on a set of pre-programmed variables.

The problem is, in the long run, the latter is always going to prove far more costly.

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