True story: On Monday, August 30, I checked my bank account online and got a shock.
A lender had taken a payment I hadn’t budgeted directly out of my checking account. I was shocked because the lender and I had had a phone conversation on August 11 during which a customer service rep told me no payments were owed until the end of September. I specifically asked the rep if she was sure; my own records showed a payment for the end of August. She said she was sure: no payments would be taken out of my account until September. I had called to initiate some changes to the account, and she reassured me that this would give me time to make the changes.
The money came out before I could make the changes, and I was livid. I called the lender, and a different rep from the one I spoke to originally told me that because I have automatic debits, it doesn’t matter that the lender gives me a break for a month; the money is still removed. I yelled at the rep. I may have scared her; I wasn’t anything close to nice. She got her supervisor. He said to fax in proof that the payment to the lender had been posted, and the money would be refunded.
Good start, but not fast enough. I faxed in a copy of my bank statement that afternoon, but when I called to verify that they received it, I was told that it takes 24-48 hours before receipt of a fax can be confirmed, and that I would receive this confirmation via email. Meanwhile, my bank account would be in overdraft.
Angry about the delay, I took my complaint to Twitter. I tweeted the lender’s name and, in several tweets of 140 characters or less, I shared the problem. Groubal, a blog that allows consumers to post complaints as petitions and get signatures, saw my complaint and replied, “You should make a groubal,” with a link to their Web site. I made the groubal and tweeted it, and first thing the next day, the lender’s help desk account on Twitter replied to my tweet asking what they could do to help.
Within about an hour of my reply, the lender’s help desk had a consumer advocate–a real, live person who called me!–on the phone with me vowing to solve my problem. One more fax the next day, and I had an email confirming receipt of the requested documents and guaranteeing that the money would be refunded back into my account, along with any resulting overdraft fees.
Lesson 1: Consumers are talking and complaining and brands are paying attention.
Lesson 2: Twitter works. Even if you’re not the size of a major lender, get on Twitter, and if nothing else, become aware of what consumers hate so you can do it better.