Sunday, September 11, 2005

Frank Kafka, experience designer

So, like any other business traveler, I’ve been piling up the Membership Miles on my Amex card. This year for our anniversary, I thought I’d take my wife out for a weekend at the Ritz, and do it with miles. So I clicked around on their site, and was able to redeem miles for a room at the Ritz on Boston Common (highly recommended, by the way) – but had to call their 800# to do it, as the site doesn’t support online hotel reservations. OK, no problem.

Now what about dinner? L’Espalier… great place. A fistful of $50 Be My Guest certificates should do it. Oh, hey – reward not redeemable online. Had to call to get them.

A couple days later, I get an email from Amex:

Dear Cardmember, Thank you for your recent call concerning the Membership Rewards ® program. We want you to always get the most out of membership. So, we're writing to tell you about another great way to access information about the program.

The Membership Rewards Web site offers you a quick and easy way to do just about anything that's related to the program. For instance, (blah blah with some links to online redemption, etc.) So next time you want to redeem for a reward, check your point balance, or get other program information, why not explore your options. Check out the Membership Rewards Web site. It's the fast and easy online alternative, and it's available to you 24 hours a day.

Sincerely, Membership Rewards Customer Service

“Why not explore your options?” Indeed. Remember when Martin Short used to be funny – he did that corporate flack with the long cigarette and the slicked down hair, and the whole “Why don’t you ask yourself that question sometime?” routine? That's what flashed through my mind when I read this.

So I fire off an email that verges between helpful (“look at the actual web data before you decide what email to send… get some business rules, folks”) and annoyed… and in response, got this:

Dear Cardmember,

Please note that you have replied to a non-secure e-mail address that is not monitored for replies and, to protect the confidentiality of customer information and to ensure prompt processing of your inquiry, we will not be able to respond to you through this channel at this time.

In order to best service your inquiry, we ask that you call us at 1-800-528-4800 or the number located on the back of your American Express Card (24 hours a day /7 days a week). From outside the United States, please call collect 1-336-393-1111.


American Express Customer Service

OK, so… you want me to call you -- or don' t you? Just what is it you want, American Express? I really can't tell – but I sure can see what you ought to be doing – looking at what you capture, what you measure, what you want to make happen, and the resulting customer scenarios, and then applying some pretty basic best practices when you execute. This is death by tactics, folks, in want of a strategy.