Credit card companies get emotional

NPR has a great podcast on what credit card companies are doing to try and predict whether you’ll be a bad credit risk. Credit card companies are basically taking your purchase history and data mining it (in a similar way to Netflix), to profile you. One study cited is Canadian Tire (a Canadian retailer, kind of like Home Depot), who took all the purchase information from their credit cards and ran an analysis on it to find correlations between purchase and credit risk.The results show two extremes. People who purchased the product premium wild bird seed are most likely to pay their bills on-time. While people who buy chrome-skulled accessories for their car are the worst credit risk, defaulting on their bills 4 times in a year on average.Whereas before the recession, this information may have been used to market more credit cards to you, nowadays credit card companies are scrambling to get their money back from all those chrome-skull afficionados.Since the 1980s, credit cards have been making the bulk of their money from bad money management having realized that “the biggest profits didn’t come from people who always paid off their bills but rather from less-responsible clients who never paid their entire balance, and thus could be milked through silently skyrocketing interest rates, late fees and other penalties.”It turns out, after the recession hit, people couldn’t even afford to pay those interim late fees anymore.This leaves credit card companies fire-fighting to recover all that debt, and one approach that’s working is to establish an emotional connection with customers. Call center staff are becoming agony aunts to debtors, offering words of comfort and advice, trying to solve problems rather than just demand their money back.“Today the goal is for customers to get a warm-and-fuzzy feeling from their credit-card company,” said Carl Pascarella, a former chief executive of Visa USA. “If we have a deep relationship with you over a range of products and experiences, if we trust each other, you’ll listen when we give you advice.”Hopefully beyond the recession, card companies will adopt this design approach as a way to prevent untenable debt, rather than just dealing with its consequences.For example, how might my credit card company offer tools to help me manage debt, or become a partner in my finances rather than a pain point?Read Charles Duhigg’s New York Times article for more details

One Comment

  1. Jen Cheng says:

    Thanks for sharing. This is an interesting topic.Pain is what some people need to change and to make better decisions. Fear for the consequences is what made the premium bird feed clan pay up.I say raising the bar would make more sense. Giving positive reinforcement to negative behavior foster cry-babies.

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