Why the S.Larson Approach to Customer Service Doesn’t Work

S.Larson has been sending me customer service notes from Citibank for decades. At first I didn’t give “S” a second thought. Just a random worker on an impersonal form letter…nothing to see here.

After several years, I began to wonder about “S.”  This person, with the unchanging signature, was a long-time staple, handling my account for over a decade.  What a good worker this person must be in order to have such longevity!

But then I had some questions:

  • Was S.Larson a man or a woman? S/he was starting to resemble a gender-netural “Pat” like person in my mind.
  • If S. Larson was with the company so long why did s/he have the same job for so many years? Surely if s/he was a good worker s/he would have been promoted by now. If s/he was a poor worker s/he would have either been demoted or let go. Did s/he like her position so much s/he wanted to do the same thing every day for so many years? That would get kinda boring for me.
  • Wouldn’t s/he like a new signature stamp? I know I would get bored seeing the same thing every day. My handwriting’s changed in the past 20 years too.
  • Why didn’t “S” want us to know his/her real name?
  • How come “S” has been sending me letters for years but is never available for phone calls?

And here I thought we had a relationship.

Ok. So I’m slow. S. Larson is obviously not a real person.

Every other place I do business with has different people signing my notes and taking my calls, but “S” was like  my own personal Customer Service rep. Except s/he wasn’t. “S” was a fake. In other words, my credit card company would rather have me deal with a non-existant person than a real live human being.

I don’t know what’s worse. Knowing there are people on the other end of the phone not picking up as I navigate a phone menu to nowhere, or knowing that my credit card company would rather use a ficticious customer service rep everyone knows is a fake, and not caring that we know.

We shouldn’t have so many questions about the people who are signing letters from our credit card company. We shouldn’t be curious or angry after receiving hearing from our customer service reps.  We shouldn’t wonder why, after a couple of decades, Citibank is still using the same fake, anonymous, gender neutral person to answer our questions.

Frankly, S.Larson has me questioning Citibank’s customer service policies. It’s bad enough they have a recording call my house to tell me to hold the line for an important message and it’s bad enough they use fake supervisors when you call with questions, but isn’t it time Citibank gave up the S.Larson persona for good?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like not trusting my credit card company. If I’m getting a letter from someone named, “S.Larson” then, darnit, I want there to be a real “S.Larson.” I don’t want to be made to feel as if I’m such a bother that I’m not allowed to have the real name of the person responding to my inquiries.

Citibank has access to  my entire credit history. They know when I’m purchasing everything from kid’s toys to underwear, yet I’m receiving mail from someone who isn’t real?

I trust Citibank with my personal information. Shouldn’t they be able to trust us with a name?





6 responses
  1. Karen Swim Avatar

    Deb, your post drives home that even in this age of technology, the human touch still matters. I think this practice is a bad throwback to an era when we thought of financial institutions as impenetrable hallowed halls. It seems that in the wake of Sarbanes Oxley and the financial fallout of the past few years that Citibank would want to be more personal and transparent.
    .-= Karen Swim´s last blog ..Brand Autopsy: GreenBox is Marketing Done Right =-.

    1. Deb Ng Avatar

      Right, Karen. Citibank is missing the chance of establishing valuable relationships, not to mention trust. But choosing to be impersonal and impenetrable, they’re risking people like me losing faith. I’m actually considering giving up my account in favor of a place offering more personal service.

  2. Sarah Avatar

    I’m not defending at all- because I agree…but as a former manager for a major credit card customer service department- we sent out form letters just like that but the signature was always the same. The person did exist- they were the head of the department sending the letter. Still very impersonal- but perhaps S. really does exist… 🙂

    1. Deb Ng Avatar

      Hi Sarah,

      S. doesn’t exist – I read about it several times in the past. S/he is a made up person. Which is kind of annoying.

  3. Rachel Rueben Avatar

    I gotta disagree here. Many writers use pen names does that mean we’re not personable? Many companies tell their Customer Serivce Reps not to use their names or full names on the phone. One being: Customers can get psycho and Two: They don’t want one employee representing their brand. Yes, it is nice when I get a real person on the phone with a real identity, but am I entitled to that well, most mega corps say no!
    .-= Rachel Rueben´s last blog ..Who’s the Boss? =-.

  4. Jan Avatar

    S. Larson has been signing letters for over 25 years – and not just for citi bank. I remember because I used to work with an S Larson in an unrelated field way back then, and I noticed it on letters from other – maybe now non-existent banks.

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