Management Strategies

01:16 AM
Ivan Schneider
Ivan Schneider
Commentary
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Why Can’t We Be Friends?

The tagline of a recent newspaper ad for Providence, R.I.-based Citizens Bank asks, "Have we told you lately that we love you?" This is an ad touting certificates of deposit. Sorry, Citizens, yours is an unrequited love.

The tagline of a recent newspaper ad for Providence, R.I.-based Citizens Bank asks, "Have we told you lately that we love you?" This is an ad touting certificates of deposit. Sorry, Citizens, yours is an unrequited love.

No, no, don't cry. It's not you - it's me. I guess I don't want to get romantically involved with a corporation that makes more money than I do. Maybe we can still be friends - with benefits.

Just one thing: Don't ask to become my "advocate."

Forrester Research's Ron Shevlin argues that banks that rank high in "customer advocacy" can benefit from higher future sales. Some customers define "advocacy" in terms of personal contact, while others, according to Shevlin, value clear explanations of products, knowledge of competitors' rates and fees, and operational excellence.

While these are all worthwhile and laudable goals for a bank, the term "advocacy" raises alarms. An advocate (from the Latin ad-vocare, "to call to") speaks or argues on behalf of another. But if I argue with my bank, I want the bank to listen to and accept my perfectly reasonable claims, not make those claims for me.

Banks are in no position to offer unbiased advocacy. Even Citibank's seemingly innocuous "Live Richly" campaign strikes me as an insidious form of psychological warfare intended to make people comfortable with the idea of remaining in a state of perpetual indebtedness. A true advocate for my financial well-being would not say, "Don't be late for home," but rather, "Europe will still be there in 10 years when you can afford it."

Let's do business, not play head games.

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