Poor Customer Service Profile: CapitalOne

We’ll see how this goes, but I’m going to start a new category of posts here profiling (what seems to me) to be poor customer service. I don’t want this to be overly negative, but at the same time I’m finding it to be an increasing problem and one that, to me, seems to have some pretty reasonable solutions.

Today, I applied for a CapitalOne credit card. I was immediately denied. This in and of itself isn’t a big deal — these are automated decisions and no automation is perfect.

The splash screen told me that I’d get a letter in 7-10 business days, but I actually received one by email almost immediately. According to that letter, there were two reasons behind my denial:

The letter also told me that my overall credit score is 803.

I have an existing credit card with CapitalOne, and through that I have access to the CreditWise credit monitoring system. I logged in, and I could see that I had 3 cards opened in the last 24 months, and 8 cards active overall. Thus, I was confused — an 803 credit score, with 3 cards opened in the last 24 months and 8 active cards overall seems totally reasonable, and I’d be surprised if any of those numbers were against CapitalOne’s approval policy.

So I called CapitalOne. The wait times were reasonable (5-10 minutes to get a human). However, I spoke to three people (including a senior account supervisor) and none of them could tell me what CapitalOne’s policy actual was. The first person told me repeatedly to contact my credit bureau, but this absolutely isn’t an issue with my credit report — I’m not contesting any of those numbers. The problem, from my perspective, is that no one at CapitalOne is able to tell me what their actual policy is in terms of how many cards are allowed, either in the last 24 months or overall.

To be clear — I am completely in favor of using algorithms to make decisions. I am an IT Business Analyst by trade, and am often involved in projects that automate decisions. However, in my opinion, it is absolutely essential that a person be able to 1) explain the rationale for the decision and 2) override incorrect decisions. I’m not saying definitively that this was an incorrect decision — without knowing their policy I can’t say that. Someone absolutely should be able to tell me, though, exactly how my situation is against their approval policy.

In addition, I find it frustrating when a company (like CapitalOne) has no email address or secure messaging system with which to receive complaints. While I appreciate their timely phone response, I find that frontline customer service workers often aren’t able to resolve these types of things, and thus it is helpful to put it in writing so that it can be escalated appropriately.

As AI gets more and more integrated into the customer service area, we’re going to see lots of examples of companies doing it poorly and, hopefully, some examples of them doing it well. Increasingly, I find myself weighing the customer service experience more and more heavily when I consider which companies I want to do business with.

If CapitalOne is interested in improving their customer service, I’d recommend the following:

  1. Have a clear denial policy (i.e. with specific numbers) and empower your customer service agents to state that policy.
  2. Empower senior agents to override denials that aren’t actually in violation of your policies, as appropriate.
  3. Have either an email address or a secured messaging system that allows customers to submit complaints or questions in writing.

Again, I have mixed feelings about posting about this. I don’t want to spew negativity for no reason. I’m doing it, though, with two goals. First of all, I’d like to advance (in my small way) a conversation around what is and is not effective in terms of customer service. Second, I’d like to have a record of the companies that are doing it poorly so that I can avoid working with them in the future.

What do you think? Is this a helpful topic for this blog?