When Self Advocacy Has to Overtake Brand Loyalty

by Anne Reuss

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Like an angelic customer, I called Charles Schwab Wednesday evening (with video relay service) to notify them I would be going out of the country (I leave for Europe tonight!) so I could use my card without getting blocked.

“Sure thing! Let me put a travel alert on your account,” said the first representative, Chris. (This is after I verified my information through my social security number, account number and a couple of security questions.)

“Oh! I also learned I might be prevented from logging in my account overseas, too. Can I please have a travel PIN to avoid this?” asked yours truly, feeling ever so responsible.

“Sure, I’ll have to transfer you to another department….please hold for a few.”

“Ok, we’ll have to transfer you to another rep – I also let him know you were using a sign language interpreter. If you could call from the number on file, that’d be great.” (I was using video relay on my laptop, so the number was different, but I was already verified as Anne Reuss – and the additional comment about interpreting was not necessary). 

“I’ll just go ahead and call him while I have the interpreter here. Thanks!”

brand loyalty

I’m about to get discriminated

Now we often speak of little things messing up part of your day. I did not expect to be stereotyped as somebody that might be guilty of identity theft – based on the fact I was Deaf, and using relay service. I could start questioning my brand loyalty, but I wanted to fix this. Back to the call:

“Hello there! My name is Anne Reuss and I was given your number to receive my travel PIN,” said eager me.

“Yes….please hang on a moment….” said Edward.

“I’m sorry, I’m having a difficult time finding information on your account to confirm you are after all (this makes me cringe to write) “hearing imparied.”

My eyes widened. “What? Why in the world does that matter!?” (And why can’t you just say Deaf?)

“We’ve been experiencing a lot of identify theft and pranks done through TTY..so I really need to make sure you are hearing imparied.” (Note: When I told my Deaf friend what happened, he said “oh that’s so old fart equipment.” True – I don’t even remember what TTY stands for – I googled it, and it is Text Telephone – we used back in the 90’s).

“WHAT!?” I got riled up. Steam started coming out of my ears. “Don’t take it out on me if you’re having trouble. I’ve verified my information and I’ve been a good customer.”

“I just have to make sure….”

“This is ridiculous.” I felt as if I was being profiled for identity theft. And discriminated because I was Deaf, using a video relay service. I was puzzled too – how is it any different from a hearing person calling with all the accurate – and stolen – information?

“If I could just get verification you are hearing imparied I will be glad to give you a travel PIN number…”

I pounded my fist on the table and started yelling. (Yes I can yell in sign language – and my voice.)

“You cannot take this out on me. How is this possibly fair? I’ve been to a branch face to face with Charles Schwab staff, did all the paperwork in person and online. It is not my fault this was not put this on record. Again, this is absurd.” My face reddened.

“I’m sorry you feel that way.” Silence. Edward was not budging.

That’s when I demanded for his name. Full name and employee number. Then I hung up.

It isn’t over

I’m really nice, I pinky promise. But I will become a fiery (and sometimes pissed, only because of my passion) advocate. I am serious about telling Charles Schwab they needed some employee training. Stereotyping is harmful for business.

So, during a night of packing and working extra hours, I had lost almost one hour. I decided to go a branch the next day, which meant more time taken away. It gets better.

“Hi there – I’m here to talk to somebody about a travel PIN but I’m having trouble obtaining one….” I told the lady at the front desk.

“What trouble are you having?”

“It’s because I’m Deaf.”

“Ah….let’s check into this.” (I had brought in someone to help interpret in case they were going to be difficult). 

She printed out internal notes explaining why the rep “felt uncomfortable” giving me one. She handed it over, but not before she asked a side question….

“Can she read?”

brand loyalty

Honey, I was an English major and I’ve got a blog post dying to be written right now, I wanted to tell her.

But I couldn’t close my jaw.

Customers as Self-Advocates

Charles Schwab needs to improve awareness and they need to understand how their customers are being affected. This blog is partly a PSA for Charles Schwab and other businesses with current (and future?) Deaf customers. It’s not over. Instead of being a bitter customer sitting back, I’ll reach out again. This blog was written with intention to raise awareness AND to encourage advocacy from customers.

I see an opportunity with every barrier  – I will advocate whether its for inclusion during creative processes, sensitivity to communication in business, employee advocacy (my last post here) or treating the Deaf with fairness and respect.

Should it be the business’s responsibility to deliver a great experience and better than fair treatment? Obviously, yes, but you can share our rallying cry against subpar experiences. We might have brand loyalty but that doesn’t mean we can’t expect great treatment.

And Charles Schwab….seriously, I’d be happy to offer some training! I’ve been around the staff enough to feel the business as a whole tries to do good – even the woman apologized when I left the branch – which does not go by unnoticed.

What do you think? Should customers advocate for themselves, or should we have “it’s not my problem, the business should know better” attitude?

I did get my PIN number. Irish you a great Thanksgiving!

Image credits: USAG-Humphreys via Creative Commons, TinyGif.com


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