When Better is Worse

Just over a week ago…

I got a text and email from American Express asking if I made recent charges in Columbia. No, I hadn’t. While I had my card in hand, it was obvious the numbers were compromised. No worries, they will cancel it out and send me a replacement card.

My Favorite Card

Before I go on, it’s important to know that I love the Delta Platinum AMEX card. Between business and personal, I do a significant amount of spending on the card. I like the integration with Apple Pay (better than Chase Visa) and the service is top notch. I don’t mind paying the annual fee because I get way more in benefits (free Delta ticket, Bonus MQM for hitting spending levels and Delta Skymiles). It is a very good relationship that I had no intention on severing until I got my new card.

The new card is metal. I hate metal cards. They are heavy, stiff and thick. They are not friendly to carry around in a wallet (unless you want your wallet to be fatter, heavier and a discomfort in your back pocket). I called AMEX thinking they could easily print my new card on the cheap plastic. They couldn’t. As part of an “upgrade”, all cards issued after January 1st were to be on metal. There is no option to get it in plastic, even for their best customers.

I told the representative that I will likely not renew the card when it comes up again because of this issue. He was understanding and sent my complaint up the line, but I doubt anything will happen. Either I have to deal with a metal card or AMEX loses my business.

Better Isn’t Always Better

I wonder what group of people thought a metal card would be better, without any provision to print plastic cards for those that carry wallets. Perhaps they suffered from a compromised ego, where the stiffness and weight of a card helps them feel good about themselves. It’s not just AMEX, a lot of card companies are doing this. But what are they thinking?

Perhaps there is a cohort of card carriers that really want a heavy and stiff card. Fine, but then why not provide options? In this case card companies are “upgrading” cards to the new metal and they never asked me if I wanted it. Apple does this too, many companies do. They make upgrades that no one wants, but we are stuck figuring out how to make do. They give us options we don’t like and take away options we value for simplicity and practicality.

What This Means to You

For the advisor who wants to improve his/her business and service model, do you consider your clients’ opinions? How certain are you that your business model is the best it can be? And how certain are you that your improvements to be better will actually be better – and not a detriment to some clients?

I speak with many advisors. I coach several in The Behavioral Finance Network. Very few poll their clients with ideas or solicit their input when crafting their value and service offering. We may think we know what they want, but do we really know? Just because we believe something is best (or better) doesn’t mean others will agree.

As year end approaches and you think about your business model and improvements you want to make for 2021, I suggest making clients part of the process. I have helped many advisors craft very simple surveys that provided them with invaluable feedback from their clients. Not only do you learn what they value (instead of just guessing), you make them part of the process – which creates more buy-in from the clients. They are more invested in your success and appreciate being part of the process.

Things are always changing. There are new service models, new gadgets etc… that can be very cool. Maybe you feel it makes you more modern and “with it”. But is it what your clients want? That is what really matters. And don’t just guess – go ask them.