Bank of America – Duh!

Bank of America announced today that, “in response to customer feedback and the changing competitive marketplace, Bank of America no longer intends to implement a debit usage fee.”

That got me thinking two things: First of which, could BoA not have predicted what the customer feedback would be back in September when it announced the debit card usage fee?

I just don’t know where to go. Are BoA executives living in such a Versailles-like separation from reality that they thought customers would be kosher with a new fee to access their own money? If this decision were run by the senior director of of corporate communication (making the assumption that said person were competent at his/her job), he or she would most certainly have gone ballistic in trying to prevent the fee from being implemented. Of course, any competent senior manager in communication could have seen how stakeholders like the media, the general public, the government, other regulatory agencies and your own customers react to news of fees after the bank received a corporate bailout and announced 30,000 layoffs.

But…

A quick look at the Bank of America list of corporate officers shows that BoA’s director of corporate communication isn’t on the senior management team.

And there’s the rub.

Another organization that shows a disregard not only for the importance of seeing public relations as a management function takes an action to protect its bottom line without looking at the effects it would have on its most important stakeholders — those that keep the organization in business.

I’m not a genius, but I’d bet my car and my very cute and well behaved dog that, even with the announced repeal of the fee, BoA still sees a precipitous decline in its customer base and its already tarnished corporate reputation.

I’ll address the second question that came to mind tomorrow: Why is it that BoA couldn’t pull off this small five dollar fee when airlines have been able to pull off fees for everything from baggage to potato chips?

Semantics…

My last post got a little fun controversy going on the blog and among the graduate program here at UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. It’s a fun topic – inasmuch as grammar and pronunciation can be fun – but it brings up a good point about clarity in communication.

I mentioned earlier that I tore my Achilles tendon at the beginning of October. I’m fine now; my cast is off and I’m limping around in a funny shoe. Interesting fact about a torn Achilles: an MRI isn’t necessary for diagnosis. X-rays are useless too. All that’s needed is the Thompson Test. Lie on your stomach, reach around to the back of your leg and squeeze your calf muscle. If your Achilles is intact, your toe should point away from your body. If your toe doesn’t point, it means you tested positive on the Thompson Test.

Or does it…

My doctor alerted me to what I am sure is the most heated debate in orthopedics. If you test positive on the Thompson Test, does it mean you have tested positive for an Achilles tear, or does it mean you have a positive result to the test – that your Achilles is intact? Conversely, is a negative result negative for a tear or negative in that you have a tear?

In a similar debate, what would you do if I asked you to turn up the air conditioning? In my mind, turning up the AC means turning the machine up, thereby turning the temperature down. Some disagree, saying that turning the AC up means turning the temperature up. Seems incorrect to me, but who am I?

Anyway, my point is that when you are communicating a message, you need to avoid ambiguity. Unless you’re talking to a bunch of orthopedists, your audience probably doesn’t care if you know what the Thompson Test is. There’s no need to prove your intelligence to an audience; the need is for you to deliver your message simply and concisely. Avoid the big words, avoid the acronyms, avoid unclear statements and, above all, avoid the phrase “short-lived.” There seems to be debate about its pronunciation…