Friday, November 14, 2008

Credit Card Companies Saving Themselves

Today credit card companies are doing more and more to try and save themselves from the crisis that is effecting so many of our financial intuitions. But in reality they may just end up losing and hurting their customers. The latest scheme now being used by some credit card companies involves watching where and how you use your credit card. When they observe purchases that they deem to be a characteristic of a risky customer they play to lower you credit limit and even possibly closes your credit card.

As credit tightens the credit card companies only want to give credit to the people that are 100% sure to be responsible customers and pay back their debt. They will also keep track of what you say when you call the customer service number in order to figure out if you are a risk for the company or not. The top places that could hurt you when using a credit card are: Bars, nightclubs, gambling institutions, cash advances, charging the necessities, marriage counseling, and massage parlors and strip clubs.

The credit card companies are now starting to look at the lifestyles of their customer and decide whether or not they are the type of customer they want to do business with. Not all credit card companies are of course adopting all of these tactics but the trend is disturbing. For example Visa may not have the same list of purchases that are disapproved of as American Express, and the next company may have no such policy at all. Each company is developing their own model that they go by to determine what and who is a risky customer making risky purchases.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Death of the Yellow Pages

I reached and picked up my newly installed ringing phone the other day and I looked at the caller ID and it was a local number. So I clicked it on and said my “hello?” and the small voice of an older woman said “Heather?” I got halfway through “I’m sorry, you have the…” and I heard a click! She had hung up on me. I frowned for a moment thinking of my years of customer service and how social rudeness had become one of my biggest pet peeves. It only takes a moment to be polite I thought. I looked at the ID again musing at the thought of calling the lady back and giving her a lesson in proper telephone etiquette. It probably didn’t occur to her that I could call her back. I had another call an hour later a very nice customer service rep was on the line congratulating me on being entered into a sweepstakes that was supposed to be a "no purchase necessary" and she started on a script about magazines. Before she got too far I said, “Excuse me, but I just bought a house and my budget doesn’t allow purchases at this time.” I heard a click. The 800 number was on my caller ID and she had told me up front her name was “Julie” and her operator number. I had the ability to call her back too.

Looking for businesses or people has far evolved the phone book and operators. With caller ID’s you know who is calling you, and with search engines you can find the people and businesses you need. No one wants to strain their back picking up the phonebook when they can go to yellow pages on line or search locally through websites like Yahoo or MSN. As a matter of fact, studies show 2008was the first time, search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN were the leading source of information for local customers. This not only changes the face of communications but it also changes the direction of advertising. Advertising on the web is more economical than print and there are many local directories where you can list your small business for free. Other things to consider with yellow page advertising vs. Internet are:

- Usability – In a culture of internet read cell phones and laptop computers you can find the business you are looking for from any location. No hunting down big bulky books and then returning them to the phone booth or receptionist. All the information you need is right at your finger tips with a map for directions to boot.

- As a business owner why would you want to give your prospects a detailed list of you and your competitors, including their addresses and phone numbers? That is exactly what the Yellow Pages do. Using search engines, you have the opportunity to differentiate yourself from everyone else and help you stand out to the ideal client. You want them to find you, not all your competitors.

- Search engines now have the ability to determine where the search is coming from. It can target way down to a city, zip or area code. With a defined geographic area, you have an incredible opportunity to be the top firm that comes up when people use a search engine for services in your area.

Despite the long years of trusted service that the yellow pages has offered its customers and will remain to do so I anticipate, for many years to come, the times they are a changing and so are the needs of subscribers. The Yellow Pages still offers a little more than nostalgia and the embracing of more technical tools has been a slow evolvement so I would say the Yellow Pages are still alive but wounded.

By the way… remember the older woman that hung up on me the other day? My phone rang again last night and I smirked when I looked at the caller ID. It read “Heather” so I picked up the phone and said “hello?” and this young lady said, “Is Travis there?” I replied “I’m sorry, you have the wrong number.” She answered, “Ok, Thank you. Have a nice evening. Goodbye.” I said, “You too. Goodbye” and then she hung up and I smiled. Some things should never die.