The potential cost of poor communication

I got an email from American Express on Thursday.  Seems my account had been compromised and there were fraudulent charges on my card.

Theft, in other words.

But this isn’t a story about theft, or even about my overwhelming curiosity about how in the world did they know those charges aren’t mine?  (Kind of creepy, really, even though it’s nice that they do know.)

In fact, it’s not a story about American Express at all, though I will say that their customer service is superb.

It’s about the ways businesses communicate with their customers.

There was one charge on my account that I couldn’t place.  It wasn’t very much – a $6.50 purchase through PayPal.  But apparently credit card thieves use small charges like that to test whether they’ve got a “live” card number or not, which is why the AmEx representative wanted me to verify it.

I couldn’t place it.  The company name wasn’t familiar to me.  The item purchased?  Not a clue from the transaction record.

I told AmEx it wasn’t mine, because I didn’t have any idea what it was.  Later that night, though, it suddenly dawned on me:  I’d bought a knitting pattern online over the weekend.  Oh, yeah.  I called AmEx back and told them to release that transaction from the fraud inquiry.

The point here is that you want to be crystal clear about who you are in every instance when you’re communicating with a customer – and especially when that communication has anything to do with money!  If I hadn’t remembered what that charge was and called back to reclaim it as something I should pay for, the author of the pattern would have been out his fee.

The chances that this will happen to your business – that your customer’s credit card will be hacked and that a payment to you will be denied – are obviously very slim.  And of course in this instance, $6.50 isn’t all that much.

But there’s much more at stake than just a $6.50 transaction.

Because ultimately this is about credibility and visibility.

You want to be viewed as a serious business – and you want your customers to know who you are.

Whether it’s your caller ID when you call them, the entry on their credit-card statement, your email address, or any other touch-point, you want them to be absolutely clear on who you are.  And you want them to be absolutely clear that who you are is wholly professional.

Where are your communication touch-points?

Are they completely clear?

And what are your experiences with other unclear communication from other businesses?