Your credit or debit card expires every few years. When it does, one of the required chores is updating all the accounts that card is linked to for automatic payments.
This recently happened to me. What's fascinating is how widely this experience varies from company to company. No company did it perfectly, though some (Netflix) handled it much, much better than others.
You'd think companies would make it easier for us to pay them. Instead, updating a credit card expiration date often generates unnecessary contacts and customer frustration.
Here are a few examples:
I logged into my Netflix account and discovered my credit card was already updated.
How did Netflix pull off this magic? They subscribe to a credit card updater service that handled it automatically. This saved me some effort and ensured Netflix would continue to get paid.
The only thing that would have made it better was a proactive notification. Netflix would have saved me the trouble of logging into the billing section of my account by emailing a message that told me my new credit card expiration date was already on file.
Most companies were fairly straightforward. Login, find the billing section of my account, and enter the new credit card expiration date.
It took less than one minute on average from start to finish for each company. That's not too bad though Netflix clearly does it better.
My worry for these companies is what happens when they have customers who aren't as proactive as I am? Chances are there are a lot of service interruptions that generate unnecessary customer friction. Those service interruptions also slow down the company's cash flow and add to the cost of servicing each account.
The cable company won this one. Again. (I've had a challenge updating my credit card expiration date in the past.)
The company did one thing well. It mailed a proactive notice reminding me my card was about to expire. That was smart business.
The difficulty occurred when I tried to make this update online. I couldn't. I tried several times over a few hours and repeatedly got this message:
Poor grammar aside, a broken self-service process is bound to generate unnecessary contacts. It was time to check this chore off my list, so I opted for live chat.
The chat session took a full ten minutes to complete. (Yes, I'm the nerd who times these things.) Most of that was lag time because the agent was chatting with two other customers concurrently and I had to wait for her responses.
Ironically, my cable company recently sent a promotion for its home security service. The unnecessary friction required to update an expiring credit card is enough to convince me the home security service would not be a good experience.
Does your company keep customer credit or debit cards on file for automatic billing?
If so, audit your process. Follow your customer's journey to see how easy (or difficult the process is). Do some extra research when an account is suspended for nonpayment to find out whether the issue could have been prevented.
The way I see it, there are three best practices for companies to follow.
- Subscribe to an updater service so card information gets updated automatically.
- Send out proactive notifications to give customers the peace of mind that their account is up-to-date.
- Make it very easy for customers to update payment information on their own.
The result will be happier customers and fewer missed payments!