Lessons that Barclaycard could learn

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I was interested to read your article “Mail impotence” (MW July 10) on direct marketing in financial services, and in particular the comment by Donald Wright of CMT that Barclaycard is doing a “bloody good job”.

I am sure that Donald is right. But I can only speak from personal experience having had a Barclaycard for 25 years. Last week, I received two mailings from the company. The first enclosed my new Barclaycard and addressed me as “Dear Customer”. The second suggested that I apply for a Barclaycard and offered me an incentive of up to 150 to switch cards.

The lessons here seemed so obvious that raising the issue with Barclaycard would have been almost embarrassing – it must be fully aware that its customer and prospect databases operate in isolation to each other, and is prepared to sacrifice relationship-building with its customers for the greater gods of response and conversion rates, which according to your article are what “good business is founded on”.

However, having read your article, perhaps the lessons are not so obvious after all, so here they are:

If you want a long-established, highly loyal, and high-value, customer to defect, do not recognise him/her by name, or by previous transaction history. Targeting and retention start here, and to many of us, good business is founded upon recognising existing customers, treating them as individuals, and sometimes using their name.

If you really want to accelerate the process of defection, offer your customers irrelevant, and therefore irritating, incentives which they are unable to take advantage of, and which promote the concept of switching.

As I say, prior to the stimulus of your article, this had seemed so obvious as to not be worth mentioning – after all, we all know that such incidences are always a possibility in any direct mail operation. Fortunately, we also know that inertia is likely to rule and that a good product (which Barclaycard is) will usually override inept direct marketing. And who knows, Barclaycard may yet wish to use my agency.

Mark Beasley

Managing director

Perspectives

Old Isleworth

Middlesex

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