July 30th, 2012 — Customer service, Marketing
I’ve now got a lot more insight into this card as the result of an online exchange with Product Manager Jared Young and a phone conversation with community manager Jen Hitchens. I didn’t get a clear answer as to how I happened to be solicited for the card—there were a number of test programs in place etc—but did glean some other insights of interest to marketers.
The Barclaycard Ring MasterCard grew out of an alpha experiment called Innovation Lab, as documented on the timeline of their Facebook page. Paul Wilmore, Managing Director-Consumer Markets, Barclaycard US, wanted to launch a new product that a/combats the low trust level of the banking industry b/leverages the popularity of social media and c/includes a financial literacy/education component. It evolved into Barclaycard Ring, which was launched in March 2012.
As I mentioned previously, I was looking for a new rewards card (Citi’s Thank You had changed its program and shafted me by expiring my nearly 400,000 points) and got a solicitation via email. But Jen says it’s not intended to be a rewards card. People are attracted by the low interest rate (currently 8% APR) and the transparency and they really enjoy talking about financial literacy topics on the community website.
In a post called “Community Share of Giveback™” (access for cardmembers only), Jared calculates that the average cardholder will earn $9 in giveback over a 6 month period. Assuming that cardmember averages $1000 a month in charges, that’s a much lower percentage than the 1% minimum that’s typical with rewards cards. So there have to be other benefits, and evidently there are.
Jen reports that the conversations have been almost universally positive on the forums so far—she’s got controls to handle negative or abusive posters but she’s never had to use them. The cardmembers are very happy to discuss arcane features of CILs (that’s credit line increase), nominate charities the community should support, and (especially) lend their recommendations about other card features they’d like to see. They also like to see the financial statements although I personally find them rather opaque.
Active cardmembers were up 3% in June 2012.
One concern I have is that all these folks are early adopters… there were only 1090 active cardmembers as of the June reporting period… and the community may change as more people join. But it’s a very interesting experiment with its heart in the right place. If you’re involved in social media, you should get this card just to keep up with what they’re doing. (That’s my referral code, of course…. it will generate Giveback™ to the community if you are accepted.)
June 29th, 2012 — Customer service, Marketing, Tech
Barclaycard Ring MasterCard “forgot password” page
[THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED.] Yesterday I mentioned a problem I was having with the Barclaycard Ring MasterCard “forgot password” page. Today I’m taking the extra step of showing the page because this is something I don’t think has a lot of customer service advantage. They’re using the same page whether you are setting up a new online persona OR you have forgotten your password in which case you simply have to choose a new username.
What else could Barclaycard have done? Send an email at the user’s request, with a unique URL that expires after a few hours. That way the account is secure, but the user stays in control of it. This is the nearly universal practice, and it’s interesting to see an exception and mull the pros and cons.
Requiring a new username is particularly onerous for Barclaycard Ring because it’s supposed to be a social networking community. If I change my username, what happens to the badges and contacts I’ve built up under my old username? But I think it’s not a very good practice in general, and this big international bank must be somehow very stretched for programming resources.
While I’m at it, here’s another not-best practice: confirming the new (or old) password by sending out an email that contains exactly that password in unencoded text. Yikes! What if I’m reading my email in Starbucks or an unsecured wireless hotspot at the airport? Even if I’m in the comfort and sanctity of my home, I’m still going to have to delete that email now. The merchant or marketer probably thought they were doing me a favor by sending me a handy reminder. In contrast to Barclaycard, this is one we’ve all seen, probably several times. Don’t do it.
UPDATE July 3: got a call from Meagan in the Barclaycard digital marketing department and she had a little difficulty reproducing the above page on a test account; possibly I had done something like enter the wrong password too many times that caused the system to “clear out my account”. What I should have seen was a reset page with my security image and with her help I was able to get to that. More important, she and I discovered that if, instead of creating a new user name in the screen captured above, I entered my current one (after confirming who I was with the challenge info above) the system would accept it.
The GOOD news was that when I finally got into my account my screen name had not changed at all; must be different from the username the system recognizes. So all my badges, if I had them, would be intact.
Meagan says this is the password reset procedure used for all Barclaycard products but she does understand how it might be a good idea to present it differently (and tell people they can keep their current username if they like) for the Ring cardmembers. Will be interested to see what they come up with.
June 28th, 2012 — Marketing
The card is in my hands, and I’m excited to be using the first crowdsourced credit card. Well… actually I’m reacting to the message on the card carrier document I received that begins “Are you excited? Because we’re excited.” This represents one of my pet peeves about advertising copywriting. “Excited” is a result. I will get excited if you give me reasons to get excited. Unless you are selling certain products which are beyond the purview of this blog, getting excited is not a benefit by itself.
Barclay Ring Welcome Page
But let’s move past that. I’ve now registered the card on the Barclaycard.com website where I find the top level page shown here. The circles on the left are badges you can earn for such things as referrals, getting paperless statements and participating in the community. You also have a “ring” next to your profile that gets brighter with increased participation and there are different levels of participation as well. (Right now I’m Bronze, having just signed up.) I have a client who operates a similar sponsored community and this seems to follow the same best practices. The recognition options are too complicated for you to make a plan for progressing through the ranks, which is exactly the idea. You just get busy and over time your profile is festooned with badges and awards and presumably additional functionality will be revealed.
In my previous post on this card I described my perception of it: a rewards card with a low interest rate, in which the rewards program is determined in part by the community. I misunderstood. In a blog post called “Barclaycard Ring, where are the rewards?” product manager JaredY says there aren’t likely to be any rewards because at the low interest rate (prime + 4.75% which currently makes it 8%) and no annual fee, the bank can’t afford them.
The cardmembers are fine with that. So far the comments are almost universally positive. These early adopters (at present there are just about 1000 active cardholders, according to JaredY) love the idea of the card, love the low APR, love the option to donate some of the “Giveback™” to charities, and aren’t particularly concerned about the way that Giveback is calculated. One poster stated that he just liked being part of the community, and any reward at all was a bonus (sort of like belonging to your local grocery coop, maybe).
Today I’m going to put this plastic into action. Stay tuned…
UPDATE: There’s currently an issue on the barclaycardus.com website that is going to be a problem in building the community. If your password is not recognized and you click on “lost your password?” the only option given is to pick a new user name; you can’t get a “set a new password” email as with most sites. If I can’t keep my user name then it’s going to be a lot harder to establish my identity in the community and accumulate badges. (Another issue is that the password for the new username is not recognized either; hopefully this is just a temporary glitch.) Will update again if this is fixed.
April 24th, 2012 — Marketing
My invitation from BarclayCard. Click to see it on their website full size.
Well, this is different. This afternoon I got an email from BarclayCard, with the subject line “Crowdsourced Credit Card – Join the Conversation”. Inside is a message that starts:
Believe it or not, we’d like to see the credit card industry change just as much as you would. We’re people, too. With bills. With families. And we think it’s time for a change. We believe we can give you a simpler credit card product, still make a profit, and then ultimately share that success with you. We’re inviting you to join Barclaycard Ring—a credit card that’s driven by its community of cardmembers. Your actions will determine the financial performance of the community, and the better the community does, the more profit we’ll be able to share with you through our estimated profit sharing program called Giveback.™3
The actual terms of the card are pretty good. 8% annual APR, no annual fee and no balance transfer fees. But what’s really interesting is the Giveback feature. So it’s like a rewards program, except the reward will be determined in part by the above mentioned Giveback program.
There’s very little about this card in Google at the moment, and it appears I may be an Alpha recipient. Nerdwallet has a good writeup in which they quote this little bit from the Barclay’s website: “This profit sharing feature is not based on the actual profits of the program. Instead, the Giveback program contains a transparent calculation that is used to determine what will be shared with the community members and which may or may not approximate actual profits.”
Color me a bit suspicious and cynical, especially because I have no idea how this solicitation made its way to my inbox. There is no attribution to a third party transmitter, and looking at my email archive it does not appear that I have a relationship with Barclay’s unless they are the same folks who sell wine by mail. But, I’ll go ahead and check it out and report back if I find anything interesting.