Don’t Do Business with Companies You Don’t Trust

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A managing partner of a financial services consulting firm makes a novel argument: Modern-day customer “service” mainstays such as misleading pricing structures, surprise gotcha charges, excessive fees such as debit-card overdrafts and cell-phone ETFs, confusing, always-changing privacy rules, and other policies that drive consumers crazy are actually bad for business.

The argument, made by Mercatus’s Bob Hedges in BusinessWeek, is mostly aimed at big banks that have gotten fat in recent years through the use of overdraft charges and other fees, but the piece also includes mention of cell-phone and pay-TV providers, which often assess odd fees that customers don’t understand and bundle services that customers don’t always want, and social network sites such as Facebook, which annoys the masses with its moving-target privacy policies. What all of these companies have in common is a lack of transparency—and a correlating decrease in trust among consumers.

Tricks and gimmicks will get a business only so far. Without the trust of its customers, a company doesn’t have much in the long run. Hedges writes:

There is a direct, quantifiable connection between how companies deliver their services to their customers, the level of consumer trust established, and the resulting business they are able to win and keep. In an environment where consumers have become deeply skeptical—even cynical—all consumer service companies neglect the trust connection at their peril.

If you don’t trust your bank, find one that you do trust and open an account there, like countless others have recently done. The power of one individual consumer to change the marketplace is limited, but you do have the power to choose with whom you do business. If you don’t trust a company, or you can’t live with the nickel-and-dime fees or the lack of transparency, do more than just complain to your spouse or co-worker about it. Take control of the situation, and take your business elsewhere.

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