When customers are relying on you, make sure to get your facts straight


A few weeks ago, I had a problem with my corporate credit card. Long story short, a fraudster in Europe had somehow obtained my card number, and was using it to buy tuxedos and high-end men’s shoes. (I know, you couldn’t make this stuff up.) So, Amex did the logical thing: they cancelled the old card and issued me a brand new card number.

As part of this process, not one but two Amex reps assured me that recurring charges would continue to work with the old card number. They insisted that I would not have to rush to change all the card numbers on file, since I had about 9 months before the recurring charges would stop working on the old number. Not being one to put things off, I decided to update my card number right away. And guess what? A vendor that we buy from every month, in the same dollar amount, told me the old card number had been declined. This was basically the definition of a recurring charge, and showed that Amex was flat out wrong.

Sure, people make mistakes. But two different Amex reps were absolutely certain that the recurring charges would be grandfathered in. I guess someone higher up changed the system, and didn’t bother to tell anyone who actually interacts with customers. Or maybe the feature never existed to begin with.

In any case, a simple recommendation is in order. Whenever you ask customers to rely on a statement that you’ve made, and you have reason to believe that they’ll be making significant changes to their behavior based on what you told them, you really ought to double check the facts at hand. While you might not get any actual complaints from the people you’ve wronged by giving out bad information, you can be sure it’s a mistake that they won’t soon forget.