by Don Adams

It started with a failed card swipe and ended with what this cardholder thought was a superbly developed and executed customer service experience.One day last month, multiple attempts to use my AmEx card at the gas pump were unsuccessful; so the mental note was made to contact them about a replacement card.

The phone conversation was typically pleasant and, so far, not remarkable or unlike other similar experiences when contacting AmEx or other credit card companies with similarly mundane account-related issues.  What was remarkable and grew even more so over the 24 hours following my call was the speed, sequence and cadence of the delivery of the replacement card and the communications surrounding it.

First was the confirmation email delivered at 1:40 am the next morning, less than 8 hours after I called − confirming the replacement card was en route including a UPS tracking number and link to UPS.com.The added element that appealed to me was the professional tone and look of the email that conveyed quality and security.

So, all well and good and a done deal, right?  No.  About 12 hours later, another email from AmEx hits my inbox.  Similarly straight-forward and professional in nature, the communication expressed its intended message clearly and concisely to tell me what had happened and what I should do depending on whether I had actually requested the replacement card or not.

Coincidentally, or if not, then extremely impressively, the email hit my inbox at just about the time the card was delivered.Surely this was enough and plenty for anyone to think AmEx had done a fine job of fulfilling a card member’s request.Well, in their mind, not quite.Yet one more email came through to seal the deal, this one first thing in the morning the day after the card was delivered.This one was a reminder to let merchants with whom I might have recurring billing know that my card information had changed to avoid any declines and / or late fees.

They had kindly reminded me to do this on the original call and could have just included a reminder to do so in one or both of the other emails.  Instead, each email was solely dedicated to a specific purpose with a specific result in mind.  The last email could have also just included the reminder, but went even further to pull data based on my past transactions for merchants with whom I might have recurring billing which very conveniently included merchant contact information, the date of my last transaction with that merchant and the transaction amount.

In and of itself, this experience is pretty remarkable, but as I thought about it further, it only served to increase my respect for American Express as a customer and a marketer.  Not only has AmEx operationalized a seamless process for card replacement, they accompany the fulfillment with impeccably timed communications that provided specific information needed and appropriate calls-to-action based on the progress of the fulfillment.  AmEx could have taken advantage of these touch points as opportunities to try to sell me on other products and services, but did not.  This not only reinforced my respect for them as a customer, but will likely make me more receptive, or at least keep me receptive to dedicated marketing communications in the future.

To recap, what were the best practices marketers reading this post should note? 

  • Pleasant initial customer service call to make the request
  • Well-designed and timed communications supporting the customer interaction
  • Additional efforts to over-deliver on service for a truly exceptional customer experience
  • Did not misuse operational communications to upsell / cross-sell

Something routine like requesting a replacement card is usually only notable if it gets botched.  All in all, the experience led this marketer to want to spread the word and reinforced that one of the building blocks of loyalty is delivering a truly exceptional customer experience.

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