Updated: Learn from CIBC’s Example of Bad Online Customer Support

I tweet about good customer service much more often than bad, because most companies have the good business sense to make things right when given the chance.  Then CIBC raised my line of credit interest rate from 7-11% for no apparent reason and refused to do anything about it.  I tried calling and also made an appointment to meet with them, but all they would do is blame the computer and offered no explanation as to why the rate would suddenly jump.  The message was I’m not a customer at all, but rather someone they’re doing a favour for.

I decided it was a good opportunity to test the power of online influence with negative Twitter feedback.

What CIBC Did Right

My tweet was addressed in a promising manner.

Learn from CIBC's Bad Example of Online Customer SupportIt was obvious the first mission was to get me off of public Twitter and into a private message (DM).  That’s a good strategy, so I sent them a message as they requested.  Since the characters are so limited in Twitter, I asked that they contact me via e-mail and provided my address.  CIBC’s Twitter agent replied that someone would be in touch.

What CIBC Did Wrong

They didn’t follow through.  Once they got me off Twitter, there apparently was no need to bother with me further.  I received no e-mail from CIBC support and can only guess they consider the matter closed.

What CIBC Should Have Done

The customer isn’t always right, but in this case I most certainly am.  With a spotless credit rating, no late payments and many extra payments, over 10 years at their bank, etc., I am the perfect customer.  This bank, with it’s billions of dollars in profit, is making hundreds of dollars from my combined debt every single month.  It would cost them much less to quietly lower my rate and keep me as a customer.  The negative impact is compounded by the damage of bad publicity from a Canadian online influencer, with a reach of hundreds of thousands across various networks and outlets.

The Lessons

  • Even the most profitable companies must remember that they are dealing with people, not numbers in a database.
  • Each individual is part of a healthy bottom line.  You will never be so big that you can afford to forget how you got there: on the back of each and every customer.
  • You are never so safe in your position of success that you don’t have to worry about negative publicity, especially in this age of viral customer feedback.
  • Treat every individual like an online influencer, because everyone can be just that to one degree or another.
  • Hire a social media manager that is aware of both the benefits and perils of online customer support.  Forget university degrees, go online and actively recruit those who impress you. Online community management is a talent as much as it is a skill.
  • Be sure to provide your online staff with the tools and power to fix problems before the situation gets out of hand.

Besides being an example that we can all learn from, this post also serves as a warning to CIBC customers.  Watch your interest rates and don’t expect them to think you are as important to them as you believe you should be.  If you’re looking for a bank you can bet your business on, find one that truly understands the concept and value of good customer service.

Update:

After my experience and hearing from our readers since publishing this article, a pattern has emerged that the public must be made aware of. The line of credit and CIBC Visa credit cards have all followed this same “strategy”. Offer increase after increase or automatically increase the credit limit until it’s nice & high. Oh what a good customer you are, dig yourself in deeper by transferring other debt to your CIBC credit card or consolidate with a line of credit. Then as soon as they have you as high as they can get you, they slam you with increases in interest rates. We’re talking prime plus 14% on a line of credit and relentless increases on credit cards.  That could ruin a small business.

This bank is obviously only focused on brutally assaulting their customers, not working with them. What they apparently don’t understand, is as soon as these victims manage to dig themselves out of debt they leave CIBC and never come back. What’s worse, they’re telling everyone they can just how abusive this bank is. On top of that, many will either be forced into bankruptcy or will focus on paying off their debt faster, resulting in lost profit for CIBC.  It’s the worst “business strategy” I’ve ever seen, but they’re blinded by their billions in profits.

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Comment on Canadians Internet BusinessI’ll be shopping around for a bank that can at least get these basics of customer service right.  Do you have any financial institution recommendations based on your own positive experience?  Please share them with us in the comments below

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Digital Business & Marketing Manager at | Website | + posts

Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In over 20 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and eCommerce websites.

Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on CanadiansInternet.com, CanadianFamily.net and AllNaturalPetCare.com, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.

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Douglas

Like many small businesses, this big one obviously has much to learn about online PR. TSK TSK! We work with Scotia Bank. I hope you find a better bank soon.

Kendra

That’s strange, I wonder what they’re thinking? Surely they can’t be that stupid? I can’t imagine ruining my business reputation and losing business by being stubborn about something so easily fixed. Maybe you should go above their head?

Dixie

Bobbleheads in business suits! What kind of a moron doesn’t look after their customers especially in the internet age? The only way the government should ever help them again is if they completely replace the sad excuse for management!

Juan

Just WOW. It’s not that they don’t know any better…. they just don’t care. Such a dumb move anyway.

Gerard

Maybe you’re looking at this the wrong way. It should be illegal and it’s something we all can lobby for. When people go on strike the government says they can interfere when it impacts the economy….well so does this. When a bank tries to bury people in debt at no fault of their own it has a major impact on the economy. It’s like they set you up, allowing you to go into debt and then when they have you entrenched they slam you with a huge jump in interest. It’s a slimey way to do business and puts them in the same category as loan sharks.

Wanda

Try the bank of montreal!

Chow

I’ll be steering clear of them!! Thanks for warning!!

Kent

I happen to know someone in upper management at CIBC through the chamber of commerce. I have a very strong feeling she has no idea their staff is treating people this way because she speaks about the value of happy customers all the time. I’m going to mention this situation to her at the next function. Best of luck!

R. D. Flemming

Wow…they don’t like customers much do they?

Maxine

What they should do is hire you to run their online support Melody. I’ll let them know the next time I’m in their bank. On second thought, I’d rather have you working for US! 🙂

Helene

I’d be embarrassed if I was CIBC. This is customer service 101 alright, just lower the interest rate to where it was, no big deal.

Tamyra Kelowna

Well it’s nice to know it’s not only new entrepreneurs that make mistakes. I don’t know what they’re trying to prove here but all they’re proving is they’re fools.

Gwydre Adda

Great tips that cibc should know already. They’ve got more money than brains for sure. It’s not like it would hurt them to lower an interest rate but hearing a negative experience from someone who is respected online will hurt them more than they evidently realize.

Gregory

I left CIBC over a year ago for the same reason. OUt of blue jump in interest and flat out refusal to reason or negotiate. They’re arrogant SOBs and I’ll never put a dime in their bank again!

Suzy

Good for you for speaking up! Banks need to be held accountable for the debt ridden state of this country. When they kick someone while they’re down they’re proving just how little they care about their customers and the economy. Instead of worrying about how “giving in” might encourage others to stand up for themselves, they should have brains enough to learn from the mistake they made in the first place. It’s simply AMAZING that a huge financial institution doesn’t get that. They’re going to put themselves right out of business.

Jack Kenny

Prudent lessons for businesses!

I’ll add another vote for VanCity, it’s a whole new banking experience.

Trev

I’ve seen this before in companies that have no idea just how bad negative feedback is online. It never goes away and comes up in searches forever (I was searching for CIBC bank rates when I found this post in fact). They inevitably find out the hard way.

Gwen

Yup, I’d leave too and I agree that it’s a sad excuse for customer service. There are plenty of bank options that recognize the value of a customer. All they had to do was change the rate back when you called and they should have, they’d be no further behind and a happy customer is a valuable customer.

Peggy

I don’t blame you for bank shopping after that. We like the Bank of Montreal and have been with them for over 40 years. Good luck!

harold6b

you’d think they’d know better than to encourage bad publicity but apparently not. i hope they read your tips. 😉

Micah

This would be a perfect case study for a book. Email me please?

Chris Java

All is not lost from mistakes unless we don’t learn from them!! The bank might think they’re above learning, but at least you’re helping other people who are willing to learn from their mistakes to be better business owners.

Sean

I have a degree and 12 years in PR and I can tell you this is a no brainer. Say you’ve reviewed the account, lower the rate, thank the customer for bringing it to your attention, make it go away. Whomever is running the credit department is, quite frankly, an idiot.

You’ve turned it into a great article and I’m sure people will learn from their mistake.

Sherry

Melody, come in and talk to us here at TD bank or feel free to email me directly. I can assure you we will never treat our customers like that. You’re absolutely right, debt is a significant part of a bank’s revenue stream and they shouldn’t focus only on customers who carry a big account balance. OUR CUSTOMERS are doing US a favour by borrowing through TD Bank and we never lose sight of that. We also love to assist small businesses. Please, let us treat you right.

Kelly-Marie

Don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re being too humble. If I recall correctly you have press contacts that go far beyond a blog. The Post & CBC right? Take it all the way!

Tammy

You’ll have the last laugh Mel. If they saw your work they’d know you’re going to be filthy rich someday soon and your millions will be………..anywhere but CIBC!!!

Brian Little

Great tips coming out of a bad experience. Hey CIBC, I’m looking for a management job and it seems you need some management with an ounce of common sense so call me! LOL

Lynda

Go to Steele on your Side or another consumer reporter. What they’re doing is wrong and saying there’s nothing they can do about it is BS. It’s like they want us all to get to a point where we can’t pay the bill and declare bankruptcy.

Trudy Chan

Oh really??? Well perhaps the tax payers should be just as nasty when the bank whines to the government about needing a loan??? I agree with Jeremy, go to your MLA.

Karl

I know other people they’ve done this to and they’re losing customers left right & centre. The people in debt to them now will never go back once it’s paid off. They’re bottom feeding at their customers expense and people are going to remember that and tell other people. DESPICABLE!!!

Clara

Thank you so much for publishing this. We’re deciding which bank to go with for business expansion and cibc is definitely off the list.

Jeremy BC

I think you should go to your MLA. The gov says how worrisome it is that Canadians are carrying a heavy debt load yet banks are allowed to add insult to injury like this?

Leslie G

That’s it, I’m changing banks. I’ve heard one too many horror stories about cibc. They simply don’t give a damn about their customers, it’s all just money to them.

Marion

A jump that high could break me! How greedy and irresponsible of them to treat any customer with such total disregard. Thanks for the warning, I’ll share it.
Have you tried Vancity? They’ve always treated me well.

Adam

Yes cibc raised interest on my visa and MC as well as line of credit and found they were charging me without any notice a 11$ monthly fees on my checking account ( I was under assumption that I am
Paying 3.50 a month) and put me in a situation that left to Me no choice except to think to file for banko .

Gurpreet

WOW! That’s a huge jump for no reason! I’d demand action too. How are we supposed to plan our debt responsibly when they can pull that on us??? CIBC obviously thinks they’re too big to worry about one customer but one customer can turn into 1,000,000 in a hurry.