What’s the Value of Loyalty?

In 1988 my oldest stepdaughter was attending university, paying rent, working part-time and pursuing a singing career. Money was tight, to say the least, and it was definitely time for her to have her first credit card. My advice? The same card I was using which, at the time, was called a Value Visa. Created by Scotiabank, it had no annual fees and it offered the lowest interest rate if she ever ran a balance. This year, as she celebrated her 48th birthday, she was still using that card, until last week when the bank informed her they didn’t want her business anymore.

Why did the bank end this 30-year relationship? What does it say about the value of customer loyalty?

My stepdaughter (and dearest friend) is voice actor, Natasha Marchewka. She and her family have lived a lot of places in the last 30 years – New York, Grand Cayman, Toronto, Halifax and, for the past three years, Los Angeles. When in Canada, she’s continued to use her Scotiabank Visa, tucking it away for safekeeping when living outside the country.

So when Natasha received an email about the Visa at the end of July, she didn’t rush to open it. She believed there was no balance and with work, life, summer vacation, etc., the message wasn’t on her priority list.

Last week, with her children settled back in school, Natasha was diligently clearing out her inbox and discovered that the credit card does now have an annual fee of $29. The payment due date was August 27; she was two weeks late. Going online to make the payment, she was not able to access her account. A phone conversation with customer service revealed that the bank had made the decision to cancel her card. Astonished, she explained that she was a 30-year customer and wanted to keep the card. The response?

She would have to re-apply!

For an overdue amount of $29, Scotiabank dismissed a 30-year customer. The only proactive communication was one email. No phone call. No regular mail. And no one at the call centre had the power or authority to change the situation. The only suggestion was that she visit her branch … a bit of a challenge when you live in LA.

It’s possible this happened due to automation. The lack of activity on the card combined with a late payment signalled some system somewhere to close the account. In doing so, the bank has lost any possibility of having Natasha as a customer again … or of having her recommend Scotiabank to her children when the time comes to organize their first credit card.

Loyalty is precious. We spend years diligently building our brands and reputations with this as the pinnacle of success – loyal customers that continue to work with us, speak well of us, generate referrals. How do we honour them? How do we acknowledge their value?


7 thoughts on “What’s the Value of Loyalty?”

  1. Chances are, and we both know this, that call went to Malaysia, the Philippines, or to India – and the person on the other end was applying some ill thought-out Asian principles to western ideals. East meets west in the world of communications usually falls short and this is just one example but let me tell you a story of one here at home!

    I’ve been having some stomach lower bowel problems (odd for me of the goat stomach) and I had tests for gall bladder issues the week before last. I didn’t hear anything and so I called on TH to see if there were results. “The tests aren’t in yet and he’s behind on writing his reports – it might be a month!” I was told. “No big deal,” I thought “at least it’s nothing pressing.”

    Relieved, I shelved it thinking we’d discuss it at my next appointment next month. On Friday just past 5 I happened to be looking at text messages (which I rarely do) on my Samsung. There, lo and behold, is a text message from a California number about my Ohio doctor! Something about needing to change my scheduled October appointment – yadda yadda yadda – and I notice the text was on Tuesday! Concerned, I CALL – and a nice lady answers (to her credit) and I ask what is this about? She says she doesn’t know; the doctor is going to be out of town on my scheduled date and can we change the date to EARLIER?

    I sense urgency so I begin to grow MORE CONCERNED and I ask if she has my report and of course she says she doesn’t and I ask is this regarding my report and she says she doesn’t know and as it’s past 5 on Friday I know my doctor’s office is closed and I ask why did they text me. Did I ever ask them to TEXT ME when communicating with me and she says, “No, that’s just how most people want to be contacted nowadays,” and I tell her most certainly that is NOT how most people (especially OLDER PEOPLE) want be contacted nowadays and as this particular doctor’s patients are most/more likely to be older people is she out of her mind saying something like that to me.

    You get the picture. I was really ramping up until I took a chill pill and realized there was a whole lot more going on in my head here than what was probably actually going on. I took a deep breath and told her I’d check my schedule and call the office and she asked me not to put her out of a job and I told her not to worry I understood she was doing her job and the two of us had just walked into a perfect storm and to assure her I let her reschedule me to a later date because earlier wasn’t going to work and if the office has more need to contact me earlier I asked her to put a note in my file to do so BY PHONE.

    HOWEVER communicating nowadays is becoming so problematic and these companies seem to have no idea what they’re doing to their public images and furthermore, don’t really seem to care. Maybe that’s just an old she-goat talking – that’s probabbly what a young person would say but personally I don’t think these companies can afford this kind of exposure by she-goats (old or not) like us.

    Maureen Sharib
    Phone Sourcer

    • Wow, Maureen, this is quite a layered story of who people are using … and not using … their phones. We are definitely creating lots of room for miscommunication and really losing out on building strong relationships. I hope, when you finally see your doctor, that all is well. Let me know.

  2. I think today’s situation is that almost everyone ignores written electronic messages, whether they are emails or texts. For some reason, some people think text are somehow better than emails. But in reality, they are no different. It seems that people don’t realise how much of life is passing them by as they ignore communications from people. Someone once said “80% of life is just showing up.” Reading your communications is a form of showing up, and if you don’t you’ll miss stuff. As I understand it, young people don’t listen to voicemails. So where does that leave us? Direct voice – BUT, the receiver has to take the call…..

    As for loyalty and banks, it does sound like an automation issue. The big banks have no time to deal with all their clients on a personal basis. Losing this customer was a calculated risk. And in the end, THEY pulled the trigger – not the client.

    Weird world we live in.

    • “Calculated risk” … that’s a valuable perspective, Mick. Thanks for this comment. This would then apply to many of our other providers and the service they deliver. They must be comfortable with a given churn rate and limit their support or their options based on that rate. Interesting!

  3. Truly a sad state of affairs. Not only have they lost a loyal customer (who at some point in the future may have done a good deal of business with Scotiabank, when and if she returned to Canada) — they have also opened themselves up to very valid public criticism. Such a turn-off!

    • It is sad. I believe, as customers, we are actually craving service and connection. The companies that set up and provide this will be the ones that thrive.


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