Citi’s One-Size-Fits-All Approach to Buyer Personas

Posted on October 11, 2010

I’ve been musing for several weeks about several change management topics to write about, when Citi Financial gave me a timely subject: customer service.

You may recall several posts we’ve made in the past year or so on the issues of customer retention and why new customers seems to get the best offers/service — while the old customers (those that pay the bills for the brand) are largely ignored.

Until today, my consulting firm has maintained an 11-year relationship with Citi as our corporate credit card issuer.  Because I have European business relationships (hence, use the cards in Europe for both travel and vendor purchases) I am the routine recipient of Citi Fraud department inquiries to find out if the card purchases are legitimate.   While I appreciate Citi’s vigilance, it has become embarrassing each time the cards are rejected at a London hotel or by European vendors where I attempted to pay for services.   The latest debacle involves a purchase from a vendor in Finland whereby I spent over an hour on the phone last week answering a litany of security questions and then was told the transaction would be processed.  Today (a week later), Citi called again refusing to process the same Finland transaction and so I again spent time on the phone with a customer service rep in India, only to be patched thru to what appeared to be someone with a Brooklyn accent back in the USA.

While Citi was embarrassed and attempted (as in previous episodes) to “regain our trust” to save the account, I decided I had enough and cancelled the cards.   Citi now says a VP-level executive is going to “reach out” to us to discuss the matter further.

For Citi, the fix may be as simple as finding out how their customers intend to use their products and services and then structure their processes around those usage patterns (customer driven process; not the other way around).  By creating buyer personas (profiles), Citi could properly categorize its card holders engaged in international business and then structured fraud and related services to take into account the unique usage patterns.

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