When you're waiting on hold with a call center or facing a recalcitrant teller insisting he would love to help you but he just isn't allowed to handle your issue, it's easy to forget that as a bank customer, you have value.
No, I'm not talking about what I'm sure are many outstanding qualities you undoubtedly possess as a human being, but actual monetary value.
Signing up customers for new accounts costs banks money -- quite a bit, actually. Not only do they spend money on advertising and promotion to get customers in the door in the first place, but they also have to pay people to fill out and process your application, as well as other costs.
According to an October report by banking technology provider Andera and CorePROFIT, a banking industry consultancy and research firm, it costs community banks about $220 to sign up a customer for a checking account at a branch. For credit unions, the numbers are also eye-opening. It cost an average of $442 to attract each new member in 2012, according to Callahan & Associates.
The cost to acquire new customers may be marginally higher or lower at the big national banks, but the point remains the same. If you close your checking account, replacing you will cost hundreds of dollars, so your bank may want to cut you a little slack on your $30 overdraft.
That may be why, at least in my experience, escalating a complaint with a bank tends to get better results than dealing with rank-and-file customer service representatives. Managers probably have a better sense of the big picture when it comes to their business, and may work harder to keep a customer that they know will generate hundreds or thousands of dollars' worth of revenue than a CSR who likely makes the same paycheck, regardless of how many customers close their accounts.
So, the next time you're negotiating over bank fees, some misplaced money or another issue, remember you have a couple hundred dollars' worth of extra leverage behind you.
What do you think? Does your bank treat you like a valuable commodity or a white elephant? How do you bargain with banks?