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Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

November 24, 2009  

"Here's the scoop," writes Greg Verdino in a post at his blog. "I drive a Nissan Altima and I've been reasonably happy with it. It's neither the best car I've ever owned nor the worst, but I'm not a car guy so if it gets me from point A to point B safely without costing me an arm and a leg in gas money I'm satisfied. The Altima more than fits the bill."

Not the ringing endorsement of a customer evangelist, but Verdino's tenuous loyalty is likely representative of many Nissan owners'—and might reflect how a fair number of your customers feel about your product or service. That's why a recent experience that soured Verdino's view of the company should cause us to consider how seemingly minor policies can alienate customers who are merely content.

He awoke one morning to the realization that his $315 lease payment was due that day. "Luckily," he recounts, "Nissan offers an online payment option—so I logged onto their site and authorized an electronic deduction from my checking account." There was a catch, though—Nissan's finance company charges a $5 fee for the convenience, and more if a customer wants to use a credit card.

While Verdino understands the logic behind the charge, he also questions its wisdom in a world where customers expect rewards—not penalties—when they use an efficient online payment process. Especially when the perceived wrongness of the policy undermines loyalty for the short-term gain of five dollars.

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