A lesson in customer service – loyalty rewarded?

How do you reward your loyal customers? The really dedicated ones that have one of nearly all your products? The ones that want to trust you with their financial well being?

Maybe you take them out for lunch on a glorious summers day, by the river, a beautiful bottle of wine and some fine food? Or maybe you choose something to get the adrenaline pumping, like a day at the races, watching the favourites romp home down the stunning Epsom downs?

I would approve of with of these options and I think most people would enjoy one or the other if you offered it to them.

For nearly 10 years now I have banked with Santander UK (obviously formerly Abbey & Abbey National). To give you a quick run down, I have been very loyal to them, every single financial product I need, I have with them, apart from my mortgage, but even then I asked them first but they didn’t want me.

That’s 2 x fee paying current accounts, 3 x savings accounts with money in them, 1 x home insurance, 1 x life insurance, 3 x credit cards within their credit limits and paid on time, 1 x personal loan nearly paid off and always paid on time.

So I think Santander UK do quite well out of me, I would love just one of my customers to have 11 of our products, I am sure they have hundreds of thousands who do.

If I did have one customer like this I would treat them with the high respect that their commitment to my business deserves.

How do Santander UK treat me? I return home to a letter tonight telling me that the interest rate on my credit cards is moving from 16.9% to 29.9% on the 1st December 2012. Is there a huge Bank of England base rate increase scheduled for is date that I haven’t heard about? The economists I listen to tell me they don’t expect a rate increase until 2014 at the earliest.

Now I know many of you will tell me that I should have shopped around along time ago and that there is no need to pay 16.9% anyway, but I was happy with the way I was treated, I thought my loyalty would be rewarded in some way, one day.

I called the number on the letter and I was told,
“you can opt out of this rate increase”
I was intrigued, “really” I said, “how do I do that?”
(Now prepare yourself for this one)
“Well, I can cancel your card now, you won’t be able to use it anymore and any balance outstanding will be converted to a personal loan at 16.9%”

I was speechless, better was to come, I can’t remember the exact phrase but after asking to speak to this persons superior I was told,

If you are not happy with this, speak to your branch, they are the ones who tell us what rate to charge. Or words to that effect.

Now aside from this being absolute BS, I can state that as a fact as my wife is the Service & Control Manager of our local branch, I just couldn’t understand the complete disinterest that Santander UK were showing in helping a loyal customer.

Most of us are in business to make a profit, but the customer MUST come first, I am a very profitable customer to Santander UK right now paying 16.9% because of the other 10 products i have with them, they don’t need to charge me 29.9% to get their margin from me.

It is a lesson for us all to always consider the bigger picture.

I would be keen to hear other people’s experiences of this bank and others before deciding what my next step is.